KOREA: Row brewing over KBS appointment

GNP accuses Roh of attempting to influence the media by choosing 'pro-government' head of public broadcaster

Korea Herald
Friday, September 29, 2006

By Jin Hyun-joo

The main opposition Grand National Party has stepped up its campaign against President Roh Moo-hyun's possible reappointment of a "pro-government" head of the public broadcaster KBS.

The GNP accused Roh of trying to influence the media by reappointing Jung Yun-joo who has just completed his three-year term.

President Roh has yet to name the new CEO of the leading television station, but speculation is intense that he has Jung in mind for the job.

Jung was a former managing editor and columnist for the Hankyoreh daily, a progressive publication considered to be supportive of the government as opposed to the more conservative dailies. He was also famous for his harsh criticism of the nation's anti-government conservative newspapers such as the Chosun Ilbo.

"President Roh is backing another term for Jung despite opposition from the opposition party, the KBS labor union, and the public because he wants to control the public broadcaster," GNP spokesperson Na Kyung-won said during a briefing.

"He is obsessed with his men," Na said, criticizing Roh's alleged cronyism in his personnel choices for high profile appointments.

Roh is increasingly coming under fire from the opposition camp for trying to push ahead with controversial polices by appointing his confidants to the government's key posts.

Roh's original choice of Jung in 2003 came in for criticism from opposition parties who raised concerns about political intervention in the public broadcaster.

The union also opposes the reappointment of Jung who initiated restructuring plans during his first term. To eradicate an overblown bureaucracy at the public corporation he transformed it from a structure based on hierarchy of rank and seniority, into a team-based system, among other things.

Some 82 percent of KBS employees are opposed to Jung being appointed for another term, according to a survey conducted over 4,050 of a total 5,760 workers of the company, the union said.

His management ability has been questioned as the station registered a record-high deficit of 63.8 billion won in 2004. It also ranked the last in terms of management efficiency among the nation's three major broadcasters, according to a 2005 report by the Korean Broadcasting Commission.

But the ruling Uri Party favors his reappointment citing his efforts to streamline management and the introduction of a team-based system.

By law, the KBS board of directors select one of five candidates for the post and recommend him or her to President. The five candidates are initially nominated by a commission consisting of the KBS board of directors and outside members.

Some 13 people applied for the open post this time, but critics say the board of directors, who are close to the government, are likely to choose Jung.

The board is expected to finalize the nomination around mid-October.