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Novelist berates MBC’s decision not to air his lecture

Lee Oi-soo
Lee Oi-soo

Novelist Lee Oi-soo on Friday showed his discontent toward MBC’s decision not to air his latest lecture, after his past remarks on the 2010 sinking of warship Cheonan sparked controversy.

“I feel like I was shot to death,” Lee said on his Twitter account.

Debating the legitimacy of MBC’s decision, the 66-year-old writer reacted with his trademark sarcasm, saying, “Korea is a democratic -- yeah, right -- republic in which lawmakers pressure those who oppose the government’s view, so they are banned from TV appearances or lectures.”

Last Saturday, Lee delivered a lecture to the 2nd Fleet Command at the Pyeongtaek Navy Station about the value of military services. The lecture was to be aired on Sunday’s episode of MBC variety show “Real Men.”

Saenuri lawmaker Ha Tae-keung, however, demanded that Lee’s lecture should not be aired as the writer had “mocked” the government’s conclusion about what caused the Cheonan ship to sink. Ha said that MBC should issue an apology for arranging the lecture while blasting the Defense Ministry for allowing Lee to speak at a place where the wreckage of the Cheonan ship is on display.

After Seoul pinpointed North Korea as the culprit behind the ill-fated ship’s sinking which killed 46 soldiers on board, Lee expressed doubts about the government’s interpretation of the incident. “Looking at the ‘Cheonan incident’ I came to think that there are so many people in this country who are gifted fictional writers,” he said.

MBC on Friday announced that Lee’s lecture will be edited out of the Sunday’s episode, saying that the decision was made “in consideration of those who were killed on Cheonan.”

Social critics and lawmakers and netizens alike were abuzz over the broadcaster’s decision and about Lee. Some criticized Lee for doubting the governmental announcement about Cheonan and said that he was ill-fitted to speak to soldiers, while others said a person has a right to raise questions.

Rep. Shim Jae-chul of Saenuri said that it was “outrageous” for Lee to give a lecture at Pyeongtaek. “What will people think of the navy and the Defense Ministry?” he said.

Professor Chin Jung-kwon of Dongyang University said that the real problem is the “primitive violence,” which says a certain viewpoint is the absolute truth and tries to eliminate every opposing view.

“In any case, people should be allowed to raise a suspicion as long as his or her objection is scientific and logical,” Chin said.

Chin also pointed out that none of the Saenuri lawmakers had a problem with President Park Geun-hye last year, when she visited Lee and asked for the popular novelist’s support.

“If Lee is really an ‘anti-national’ person, why did President Park take a picture with him during last year’s presidential election? Is she a ‘pro-Roh, pro-North Korean?’” Chin said jokingly. “Pro-Roh, pro-North Korean” is a derogatory term used by people who claim that supporters of late liberal president Roh Moo-hyun and people who are pro-North Korea are on the same side.

By Yoon Min-sik