The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on Monday issued another apology for the blacklisting of cultural figures under past administrations, but the press conference was mired by complaints from participating artists that the ministry lacked the resolve to prevent a repeat.
Culture Minister Do Jong-hwan, speaking at a press conference in Seoul on the topic of its year-end report, confirmed that penalties would be imposed against 131 officials involved in the blacklisting scandal -- 68 from the ministry and 63 from affiliated organizations.
Minister of Culture Do Jong-hwan (center) and other government officials apologize for the blacklisting of cultural figures under past administrations during a press conference in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)
The scandal refers to the actions of the administrations of former presidents Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak -- both currently imprisoned -- which kept a blacklist of nearly 10,000 figures in the culture and entertainment sectors, unfairly subjecting them to investigations and denying them government subsidies.
Of the 68 officials from the Culture Ministry, 10 are under criminal investigation, one was subjected to “severe disciplinary action” of unspecified nature and 33 received warnings. Of those from affiliated bodies, 21 will be subjected to disciplinary actions ranging from dismissal or suspension to pay cuts and 13 others will get warnings.
Two former minister-level officials and one vice minister-level official are currently being tried in relation to the scandal, and the ministry is pushing for the passage of a law that would enable prison terms of up to five years for anyone who attempts to make a similar blacklist in the future.
At the press conference, Do and the other officials once again apologized for the scandal.
“As the minister in charge of the major ministry related to the blacklisting of cultural figures, I would like to sincerely apologize to all who were hurt by the blacklist,” Do said.
Do’s apology, however, was interrupted by angry outbursts from the artists in attendance, urging the ministry to specify what they were apologizing for. The 30-minute conference soon turned into a forum for the public condemnation of officials by angry artists, who demanded more specific measures from the ministry.
“We (the cultural figures) threw ourselves behind the Moon Jae-in administration and Minister Do in the belief that they would do a quality job to ensure that this (blacklisting) will never happen again. It looks as if Minister Do and the officials are not quite on the same page,” said stage actor Park Yeong-hee, accusing the ministry officials of lacking resolve.
A number of artists have suggested that the Culture Ministry is lukewarm on the matter. Monday’s press conference appeared to frustrate them, as it was seen as nothing more than a rehash of what they had already heard before.
Artists implored the ministry to continue its efforts to deal with the blacklisting scandal, starting by visiting the artists and organizations affected and apologizing in person.
By Yoon Min-sik