Prying into entertainers’ lives draws stir

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Apr 5, 2012 - 20:49
  • Updated : Apr 5, 2012 - 20:49

Entertainers claim intelligence agents kept them on watch

The recent revelation of the administration’s illegal surveillance on TV personalities is creating a public stir and emerging as another hot potato of the April 11 general election campaign.

The first that came to light was popular TV host Kim Je-dong. Kim, who hosted a commemorative event for the late former President Roh Moo-hyun in 2009 and has been classified as a liberal celebrity since, as revealed on Wednesday, he had been watched over by the National Intelligence Service agents.

In his interview with MBC unionists, he said two agents from the NIS visited him in May 2010.

“They said the VIP (very important person ― politically referring to the President) is worried about me and cares about me. They tried to talk me out of hosting a commemorative concert for Roh,” he said. Kim added that he refused the “advice.”

“After the incidence I was scared. What was petrifying was that I tried to censor what I said so that I would not get myself into further trouble,” he said.

Comedian-turned-radio presenter Kim Mi-hwa revealed that she also had been spied on by the NIS.

“Some agents visited my place and told me that the VIP and NIS bigwigs were not pleased with me because of my favoritism for the Roh administration,” Kim said. She was sacked in 2010 from her highly-rated MBC radio program for her political inclinations.

The news has become the talk of the town since both Kims are famous, popular and are believed to have been discriminated against in various occasions under the conservative administration.

Kim Young-joon, Kim Je-dong’s agent, admitted that his client had a hard time getting job offers.

“It is time the government agencies should come clean about their prying activities,” he said on a TV show.

The main opposition Democratic United Party shot barbs at the government hoping that the issue would attract swing voters.

“Surveillance on entertainers, threatening them and putting them at a disadvantage are old tricks of the authoritarian regime. I hope the government would not insist that the Roh Moo-hyun administration had schemed this,” said Moon Jae-in, the front man for the DUP.

The NIS said it is investigating whether its staff contacted Kim Je-dong, but denied watching Kim Mi-hwa. It said they have never received a report about the female presenter and that the verification of the allegation is unavailable.

On Thursday, Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Park Jeong-ha said the Presidential office is looking into the case.

“We have read the related news articles about surveillance of celebrities. We have never produced or received reports directly. Chances are slim that such documents exist. We are unlikely to find out what the papers were about,” he said.

By Bae Ji-sook (