South Korea: Police Question Influential Podcasters for Campaign Violations

One of South Korea's most influential podcasters was summoned for questioning last week over alleged illegal campaign activities, igniting heated debates and discussions online. Kim Eo-joon, head of an activist Internet newspaper and one of four hosts of the nation's most popular podcast ‘I am a petty-minded creep’, which lampoons the country's president and governing ruling party, was charged with violating election laws by holding eight rallies in a public place.

Another host of the podcast show, investigative reporter Joo Jin-woo, was also summoned for questioning [ko] on May 18, 2012. While there are some net users expressing that the investigation is justified, a majority of Twitter users have defended Kim and accused police of unfairly summoning him while condoning other major political heavyweights responsible for similar remarks and campaign activities.

Image of the four hosts of the show, From left - Kim Eo-jun, Chung Bong-ju, Kim Yong-min and Ju Jin-woo, Naggomsu team from Naggomsu Daum Cafe holds the copyrights, Used under permission.

Image of the four hosts of the show, From left – Kim Eo-jun, Chung Bong-ju, Kim Yong-min and Ju Jin-woo, Naggomsu team from Naggomsu Daum Cafe holds the copyrights, Used under permission.

Kim Sang-ho (@sinbi2010) tweeted [ko]:

김어준 “선거법 위반 혐의로 소환하는 것은 권력과 자본의 집단 광기에 불과하다. [수 없이 많은 이명박의 비리와 선관위 비리 부정 선거 등은 미혼적 수사하면서 선거 독려 했다는 이유로 수사하는 것은 미친짓이며 누구에게도 이롭지 않는 처사다.

Summoning Kim Eo-joon over violation of election laws is just a craziness of political and financial powers. The police was so tacit when investigating the president's corruption scandals and the election commission's election fraud cases. It is just ridiculous that the police question Kim just because he ‘encouraged voting’. This kind of police action is beneficial to no one.

Twitter user @shanti reminded people of the similar treatment [ko] of Chung Bong-ju, one of the four co-hosts of the show, who was sentenced to a jail term over defamation charges for raising allegations that the president was involved in stock fraud.

The verdict was accused by many as politically motivated, but Park Geun-hye, the governing party’s strongest presidential candidate who made similar remarks on the fraud cases, has gone unscathed:

박근혜 BBK 발언 결국 무혐의 처분되었다. 봉주는 감옥에가고 그네는 무죄다.김어준 삼두노출은 선거법위반 조사 받고 그네 쌍두노출은 우연의 산물이라 무죄다.대한민국 만인 앞에 법이 평등한 법치국가 맞는가?

Park Geun-hye's BBK [company name] remarks [remarks on the current president's stock price manipulation allegations] were eventually acquitted. Bong-ju was jailed while Geun-hye was cleared of charges. Kim Eo-joon's ‘Three Heads Exposure’ was being investigated over election law violation while Geun-hye's ‘Two Heads Exposure’ is not-guilty. Are we living in a country where everybody is equal under the law? [The Three Head Exposure refers to an incident in which three hosts of the show made what is believed to have been an accidental appearance while one host ran as a candidate. It was interpreted as breaking the election law by showing support to certain candidate. Park Geun-hye made a similar public appearance while a candidate from her party campaigned for the April election]

Twitter user @badasok, referencing Kim's answers to the questions [ko] on whether he thinks himself as guilty, argued [ko]:

김어준 총수 ‘선거에는 최대한 많은 사람이 참여해야 한다고 본다'며 ‘제가 한 일은 그런 정신에 부합한다’ =>민주주의한다면서 선거하라고 했다고 잡아가는 정권은 세상천지에 없죠.정치검찰과 낙하산 선관위원들.. 이게 민주주의입니까?

Kim said “I believe as many as people should participate in the election’ and added ‘what I did (during the campaign) corresponds to the spirit of election.” There is no such democratic government in the world as ours who detain people for (encouraging) voting. When I look at these politicized prosecutors and parachute election commission people [the ‘parachute’ refers to people who were assigned to the post by someone ‘higher’], it makes me doubt whether we are living in a democratic country.

Another Twitter user (@__hope_criticized [ko] the police for probing the hosts of the show who have unearthed numerous political scandals of the ruling party and the president, and even made an investigative report on the election fraud. It is also ironic that it was none other than the election commission who requested the investigation.

[…]10.26 로그기록,박근혜 선루프 차 조사 등. 경찰이 해야 할 일들을 한 나꼼수에게 부끄럽지 않은가. 김어준 앞에서 고개 들 수 있는가. 우리는 경찰 앞에 선 김어준이 자랑스럽다.

[…] (Revelation on) the Oct 26 Election site log file and the coverage on Park Guen-hye's [campaign activities] through a [car] sun-roof… You police – are you not ashamed by ‘Naggomsu’ [Korean acronym for ‘I am a petty-minded creep’] who have done all the work that you should have done? Will you be able to stare straight into their faces? We are proud of Kim Eo-joon who boldly stood in front of the police.

However, there were some divided responses online. Some net users from Daum Agora [ko], the nation's biggest public forum, criticized the hosts of the show for “creating public commotions”. Net user ID:Doctor K  wrote [ko]:

아무리 나꼼수가 처음엔 스스로 마이너적인 해적방송을 지향했다고 해도 지금 나꼼수는 그들이 비판하던 권력 그 자체가 되었고 스스로 그 권력을 즐기고 있다고 해도 과언이 아니다. 이번 선거에서 김용민 파문에서도 볼 수 있듯 나꼼수가 적극적으로 ‘김용민 구하기'에 나서면서 국민의 뜻은 안중에도 없지 않았던가. 그들을 따르는 지지자들의 환호에만 귀기울일 뿐.

Naggomsu started as a media effort representing minority opinions and guerilla broadcast and it still aims to be seen that way. However, it has now become the power figure which it used to criticize. They [hosts of the show] are even enjoying the perks of power. As we can see from the Kim Yong-min scandal during the recent election [referring to some abusive comments made by one of the hosts], they were only focused in salvaging their own member rather than paying attention to what people really care about. They only listen to their supporters’ praise of them.

Net user ID:진보는없다 adviced [ko] the show to lose its aggressiveness:

잘 새겨들어서 우리의 생각만 옳고 우리만 정의로우니 우리는 이 길을 가야한다는 생각 버리길 바란다. 같은 길을 간다고 해도 지혜롭게 덕스럽게 가는 길을 택해보기 바란다.

Wish they bear this in mind – please drop the idea that they are the only one who are right and just, so they would continue to walk this way. You can still take the same path while acting wisely and virtuously.

As the multiple probes made national headlines throughout this week, some criticism fell on conservative mainstream media. Lee Myung-hyun (@thezokertweeted [ko]:

조중동에게 김어준이 정말로 선거법을 위반했느냐 아니냐는 별로 중요하지 않죠. 그냥 경찰에 출두했다는 사실과 출두하는 그 그림만이 중요할 겁니다. […] 죄의 유무를 떠나 국민들에게 마치 죄가 있는 것 같은 인상을 주면 되는 거죠.

To Chosun, Joongang and Donga [the nation's three major right-wing newspapers], the fact whether Kim Eo-joon really violated the election laws doesn't matter that much. What matters to them is the fact that Kim was being summoned by police and the scene showing Kim being summoned […] Regardless of the guiltiness, if all these scenes give the public the impression that Kim has done something wrong, it is fine with those newspapers.

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