Korean reporter instrumental in Chung Yoo-ra's arrest in Denmark
By Lee Han-soo
A JTBC reporter was instrumental in the arrest of Choi Soon-sil's daughter Chung Yoo-ra in Denmark, according to the Korean news outlet.
Lee Ga-hyuk, a reporter who has committed himself to tracking down Chung, reported Chung's whereabouts to Denmark police and was present during her arrest.
JTBC plans to reveal how it found Chung and will show footage of her arrest during its primetime news show on Tuesday.
Earlier on Monday, Danish police arrested Chung Yoo-ra on charges of being in the country illegally.
South Korea's special prosecutors and the police are collaborating with their Danish counterparts to repatriate Chung as soon as possible.
Chung Yoo-ra pins all of the blame on mother
Chung Yoo-ra, daughter of Choi Soon-sil, told reporters in Denmark that she has nothing to do with the corruption charges against her and that any controversy involving her was the result of her mother’s scheming.
“All I did was sign certain documents, whose contents were covered up by Post-its,” Chung told a group of Korean reporters during a break in a detention hearing at a local court in Aalborg, a northern city of Denmark, on Monday. “I don’t know a thing about what’s been going on in my mother’s business, as it was run by her and her aides.”
Chung, 21, is accused of receiving unjust admission to and preferential treatment at Ewha Womans University. She is central to a probe into a corruption scandal involving the Korea Equestrian Federation and Samsung Electronics. Samsung pledged 22 billion won ($18.3 million) for Chung’s equestrian training. It was also the largest benefactor of two nonprofit foundations that Choi practically controlled, contributing 20.4 billion won.
“I thought I was going to be expelled [from Ewha Womans University],” Chung said. “But my mother and I met with then-President Choi Kyung-hee and professor Ryu Chul-kyun. I left the meeting before my mother did and then I found out later that I got the academic credits.
“I even told my mother that I wanted to drop out,” she added, “but it didn’t work out.”
Chung also denied knowledge of how Samsung came to finance her training.
“My mother told me that Samsung decided to sponsor six equestrian athletes,” Chung said. “I was just one of the six who were sponsored.
“I don’t know how much funding I received or from where,” she added. “Only my mother and my training coach would know.”
Chung denied having close ties with President Park Geun-hye.
“The last time I met her was when my father was still working [for Park],” she said. Chung Yoon-hoi, ex-husband to Choi, was chief of staff to Park from 1998 to 2004. “I think I was an elementary school student then.”
She also denied knowledge of what the president may have done during a mysterious seven-hour absence on the day of the Sewol ferry’s sinking in 2014, in which 304 passengers died after a delayed government response.
“I was pregnant at the time, and my mother and I had fallen out because of it,” she said. “I was living in Sillim-dong and my mother in Gangnam District [of southern Seoul], and we had no contact. So I have no knowledge of what might have happened in the government at the time.”
Chung was arrested by authorities in Denmark’s northern city of Aalborg on Sunday on the charge of illegally staying in the country. She was arrested with four other people, including her 19-month-old son.
The court in Aalborg on Monday extended Chung’s detention to Jan. 30, even after she told it, “There is no one to look after my 19-month-old son if I am detained.” Chung’s lawyer in Denmark is reportedly planning to file an appeal.
Chung said after her arrest that she will not try to avoid extradition to Korea and will cooperate with an independent counsel’s probe of the allegations surrounding her and her mother - as long as she can be investigated without being detained.
Chung told the reporters in Aalborg that she would return to Korea in a heartbeat as long as she can stay with her son.
“It doesn’t matter if the child needs to stay at a nursery [when I’m being investigated], or with a social welfare group, or at a hospital,” she said. “I just miss my baby.”
If Chung returns to Korea, she will be separated from her son after she is arrested.
According to the Ministry of Justice, only children aged younger than 18 months are allowed to stay with their mother when the mothers are detained, as per the Administration and Treatment of Correctional Institution Inmates Act.
The National Policy Agency of Korea asked Interpol to issue a Red Notice for Chung to extradite her to Korea. The independent counsel issued an arrest warrant in December.
Interpol announced Monday that it decided not to issue a Red Notice for Chung, saying that the initial purpose for the notice, which was to arrest Chung and extend her detention, has been achieved.
Meanwhile, Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Tuesday that it ordered Chung to return her passport, and notified her that her passport will be annulled by Jan. 10 if she does not return it on her own accord by Jan. 9.
“The cancellation of her passport does not immediately make Chung an illegal alien in the country,” the ministry said in its official statement. “It is up to the Danish government to decide whether or not to expel her from the country.
“In the meanwhile, the ministry will speak with the Danish government and Interpol to make sure that Chung is not allowed to cross national borders,” it added. “A one-way travel certificate will be issued for Chung when she returns to Korea.”
The ministry added that it is cooperating with the Danish foreign ministry and justice ministry to extradite her.
BY ESTHER CHUNG
South Korean reporters could face legal steps in Denmark
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A judge in Denmark said Wednesday she is strongly considering taking legal steps against South Korean journalists for violating Danish law by filming inside a courtroom the daughter of the impeached South Korean president's confidante during a detention hearing.
Malene Urup says South Korean reporters filmed and spoke to Yoora Chung on Sunday, hours after her arrest on an international warrant. The interviews eventually were posted on South Korean news media's websites.
Urup told The Associated Press on Wednesday that reporters were informed in Danish and English "several times" about the ban and asked to delete the videos.
Urup said that she had not decided when or how many would be reported to the police for violating Danish law, adding "we take this very seriously." The penalty if convicted is a fine.
An eight-minute video of Chung talking to reporters in court was posted on the English-language Korea Times' website.
Chung is the daughter of jailed Choi Soon-sil, who is suspected of bribery and receiving favors from companies and allowing a friend to manipulate government affairs. Authorities in Seoul are working to extraditing her in connection with a huge corruption scandal.
President Park Geun-hye was impeached last month by lawmakers amid public fury over prosecutors' allegations that she conspired to allow her confidante to extort companies and control the government.
South Korea had asked Interpol on Dec. 27 to search for Chung because she didn't return home to answer questions about the scandal. She was arrested in Aalborg, some 220 kilometers (137 miles) north of Copenhagen.
South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported that Chung, a former member of the national equestrian team, allegedly took advantage of her mother's relationship with Park to get unwarranted favors from Seoul's Ewha Womans University.
Chung is held in detention until Jan.30 — a ruling she appealed but the Western High Court upheld it Tuesday.
[Longform on ethical issues raised by Korean Media's actions behind spoiler]
Ethics Be Damned: South Korean Journalism Fails
I am from South Korea, but I make it a point not to write or speak in Korean about this country. That my Korean language skills have ossified from disuse is only one reason; it is more that my brushes with South Korean media are rarely uplifting.
A case in point: A little more than one year ago, I wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times about the Park Geun-hye administration’s ill-conceived plan to introduce mandatory state-produced history textbooks.
Not long after that, I received a call from someone who claimed to be with the foreign ministry. I was too busy to talk then and there, so I told him I would call him back. When I dialed his number a half hour later, however, no one answered. Neither he nor anyone else claiming to be with the South Korean government called again.
I recounted this experience first in a Facebook post, and then in a short essay on Korea Exposé. That should have been the end of the matter, but soon a South Korean news site Media Today contacted me, asking to interview me about the exchange. When I declined the request, they asked whether they could still write about it.
It’s a free country, so I said why not.
Freedom must mean different things to different journalists though, because the article Media Today published was free to the point of being in flagrant violation of what I consider to be basic codes of journalism. It went: “It has been revealed that [the foreign ministry] attempted to exert pressure on a media outlet that wrote an opinion piece critical of the South Korean government.”
To back up her claim of state repression, the reporter provided no evidence beyond my own summary of what had transpired. There was no indication that she had made any attempt to speak to the foreign ministry to determine whether one of its employees had in fact called me, and if so, to what end.
Media Today is supposed to be a reputable news site, one that began as a publication of the National Union of Media Workers, but its reporter was making an argument on the basis of a single source, i.e. yours truly. I could easily have been lying, but no effort was made to verify the facts I had presented. That my encounter fit their agenda – pro-media freedom, anti-government, ‘progressive’ – was obviously enough for them to justify printing the story.
Since then, I get visibly tense when I see my name in South Korean media or a local reporter contacts me. Ethics is in short supply in South Korea’s journalism business. Papers routinely write up allegations without proof. They run paid contents without divulging the arrangement. Opinion pieces are dressed up as news articles. Too many sources are anonymous, even when there are no justifiable reasons. I do not wish to be part of this game.
(For an excellent summary of some of the problems that ail South Korean journalism, read John Power’s “Korea’s Media Malaise.”)
Recently, someone I know got into trouble precisely for pointing out one example of South Korean media’s ethical lapse. (Full disclosure: His name is Park Sanghyun and he works for Korea Exposé’s partner firm, Mediati.)
Earlier this week, a reporter from the cable TV station JTBC located Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of President Park Geun-hye’s confidante Choi Soon-sil, in Denmark. After failing to get Chung to speak to him, the JTBC reporter called the local police to arrest her and reported on the development as an exclusive.
After watching this news segment, Park wrote in a widely circulated essay: “I believe that yesterday evening JTBC irreversibly opened up journalism’s equivalent of Pandora’s box.”
He argued that a reporter’s role is to observe and report on a story, not to be an active participant.
More crucially, he rightly pointed out the obvious conflict of interest in this case: By facilitating a dramatic development in a story that is gripping the nation, the reporter and JTBC unquestionably benefited from the attention.
(Rules that forbid such conflicts of interest abound in many fields. Art historians, for instance, share the understanding that they should not purchase the objects they study, as their scholarly research can drive up the value of said objects.)
Yet since the essay went public, Park has been inundated with criticism, with nearly 12,000 comments on the popular portal site Daum alone. Much of the anger at him reflects the curious perception — seemingly shared widely — that Jeong’s arrest is in the interest of the public and journalists’ job should be to act as agents of justice. Some internet users have derided Park as being “sage-like,” in the sense of preaching principles without concern for how the real world works.
Theirs is an alarming perspective: that serving a cause should be more important for journalists than being honest, independent storytellers. Do South Koreans really think that the end justifies the means? A woman the nation despises has been brought into custody thanks to JTBC, so does that mean no legitimate complaint can be lodged against the manner in which the detention unfolded?
I wonder if Media Today might say something similar in response to my complaint about their article: The Park Geun-hye administration, a repressive regime no doubt, deserves all the criticism one can muster, so why fuss over something as mundane as fact-checking when running an article that illustrates how deplorable this government is?
In all fairness to South Korean reporters and media outlets, it must be said that the public share the blame when it comes to undermining journalistic integrity. Back in 2014, an independent citizen-funded internet news site Newstapa published a series on prominent candidates running for seats in the National Assembly. Though Newstapa is heavily left-leaning, one figure it chose to scrutinize was Kwon Eun-hee, a former policewoman who became a progressive icon by accusing her superiors of covering up the national spy agency’s interference in the 2012 presidential election that Park Geun-hye won.
In the run up to the 2014 election, Newstapa showed that Kwon and her husband had engaged in questionable real estate dealings and had underreported their assets in the course of Kwon’s registration as a political candidate.
Kwon still won her seat in the city of Gwangju. But the backlash against Newstapa was intense. The so-called progressive supporters of Newstapa threatened to cancel their subscriptions on the ground that a liberal media outlet’s purpose is to help defeat conservatives, not to besmirch one of their own. The message was clear: Journalists shouldn’t serve truth if it harms the cause readers believe in.
Park Sanghyun was courageous in critiquing the JTBC reporter’s conduct. The station has achieved cult status in South Korea after obtaining a tablet computer that has become a crucial piece of evidence in the Choi Soon-sil/Park Geun-hye scandal. Enough South Koreans now revere JTBC’s President of News and main anchor Sohn Suk-hee as the only trusted source of news. Some would even view any criticism of JTBC as a conservative plot at best and undiluted blasphemy at worst.
What these self-styled supporters of the free press do not seem to realize is that their passion is reducing journalists to partisan hacks and tabloid reporters. When news consumers don’t hold journalism to a higher standard, there is very little reason for reporters to do better. South Koreans frequently grumble that reporters are nothing more than giraegi – a term that combines “journalist” with “trash” – but continue to accept the industry’s shortcomings, because readers want news that simply serves their convictions, not journalism that might expose unpalatable truths, nor journalists who play by strict codes of ethics.
(This, of course, is now a universal problem in the age of fake news and social media where like-minded friends and followers exchange only stories that confirm their existing views.)
In a coda to the story of Chung Yoo-ra’s arrest, the Associated Press reported this week that a judge in Denmark was strongly considering legal steps against South Korean reporters for breaking local law. The country forbids filming inside a courtroom but South Korean reporters did precisely that, talking to Chung for minutes on tape and broadcasting the interview footage for consumption back in South Korea.
I am sure many of those same reporters will say they broke the local law in a quest to satisfy the South Korean “public’s right to know.” The incident nevertheless raises a point that is bound to be uncomfortable for South Koreans to contemplate: What they believe to be an acceptable practice of reporting here does not fly everywhere else. One country’s journalism can be another country’s criminal action, or worse, just plain garbage.
Links are at sources. Not posting the video of the interview for obvious reasons.
Also I didn't even realise the post on Park Geun-hye was nominated for Best of Omona 2016. I didn't do anything other than copy/paste so it feels weird to say thank you, so I instead made this post as a way to show my appreciation. I feel like a cat bringing omona a dead mouse.
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