Artists lambast blacklist as ‘cultural savagery’

By Yoon Min-sik
  • Published : Sept 25, 2017 - 17:30
  • Updated : Sept 25, 2017 - 17:30

Novelist Hwang Sok-yong and comedian Kim Mi-hwa on Monday formally requested official investigation into the blacklisting of cultural figures under former President Lee Myung-bak, as the scandal snowballed to engulf two previous conservative administrations.

Prior to submitting the request, Hwang and Kim held a press conference at the headquarters of the joint civilian-government investigative committee looking into the blacklist scandal in Seoul, criticizing the Lee and Park Geun-hye administrations for keeping blacklists.

Novelist Hwang Sok-yong (left) speaks during a press conference about the blacklisting of cultural figures during the previous Lee Myung-bak administration. On the right is comedian Kim Mi-hwa. (Yonhap)

Hwang cited the documents of Lee’s blacklist, which said to “induce isolation” of the listed figures, saying such documents reveal the administration’s true face as “culture savages.”

It was revealed earlier this year that the Park administration had kept a blacklist of artists critical of the government, labeling them “leftists.” Park is currently being tried for involvement in a corruption scandal involving her confidante Choi Soon-sil.

Last month, the National Intelligence Service was revealed to have kept a similar blacklist during the Lee administration.

It was also found that the list had been drawn up under the name of “strategies to balance (the left and right of) the culture circles,” alleging that a majority of cultural figures were leaning too heavily to the left and therefore should be banned from state funding.

“When you look at the documents, you can see that the phrases they (authorities) used gradually became more aggressive,” said Kim. “At first it was ‘advise the left-leaning celebrities to leave.’ Then they started calling me ‘hardcore leftist,’ ‘pro-North (Korea) celebrity.’”

It is common for ultraconservatives in Korea to accuse progressives of being pro-Pyongyang.

Kim said it was only when she was recently interviewed by prosecutors -- as a possible victim -- that she became livid about the blacklist.

“It was then I was given access to all the documents that the NIS had written about me. I am disgusted and furious that the state used its humongous power to monitor an individual,” she said.

As more revelations are made about the blacklists, artist groups are requesting an investigation of what they suspect are irregularities.

According to the joint committee, actor and former politician Moon Sung-keun, directors Byun Young-joo, Kwon Chil-in and Kim Jo Kwang-soo are either planning to or have already asked officials to investigate their cases.

The committee last month launched a webpage ( where anyone with knowledge about the blacklists can provide information. So far, 25 cases have been reported to the committee.

A group of artists plans to formally request the committee to investigate Lee, actor Yu In-chon and former journalist Shin Jae-min -- who were culture minister and vice minister during the Lee administration, respectively -- concerning the blacklist.

By Yoon Min-sik