The Seoul Central District Court on Thursday gave prison sentences of one to three years to seven former presidential aides and ministers for their roles in creating a blacklist of artists critical of former President Park Geun-hye.
Former presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon and former Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun are escorted to the courtroom at the Seoul Central District Court to attend their sentencing hearing Thursday. (Yonhap)
The court found former presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon guilty of abuse of authority and bearing false witness in compiling the list of nearly 10,000 artists across the worlds of film, music, literature and the fine arts.
He was sentenced to three years in prison.
Former Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun was found guilty of false testimony, but was acquitted of abusing her authority as a minister, receiving a one-year jail sentence suspended on two years of probation.
“The act of discriminating against artists by Cheong Wa Dae and the Culture Ministry severely oppressed the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution, and cannot be tolerated under any circumstances,” head Judge Hwang Byung-heon said.
The remaining five former ranking presidential and Culture Ministry officials include former Culture Minister Kim Jong-deok -- Cho’s predecessor -- and Senior Secretary for Education and Culture Kim Sang-ryul. They were handed prison terms ranging from 1 1/2 years suspended on two years of probation to two years for banning state sponsorship of the artists in collusion with the two.
The list was used under the Park administration as a basis for excluding left-wing artists, including 2016 Man Booker International Prize winner Han Kang and “Oldboy” director Park Chan-Wook, from state subsidies and projects.
On the list were artists who in their works had criticized Park, her late strong man father Park Chung-hee and her political incompetence regarding the botched handling of the sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014. More than 300 people, mainly children on a school trip, lost their lives in the disaster.
In February, 461 of those on the list took legal action against the Park administration, seeking 1 million won ($900) each for breaches of their right to freedom of expression.
The blacklist case is part of a wider political corruption scandal that led to Park being removed from office in March.
Park is in detention and standing trial following her indictment in April over 18 charges, including bribery, extortion and abuse of power.
By Bak Se-hwan (firstname.lastname@example.org