The Korea Herald


[Editorial] Abide by principles

Yoon’s remark disclosed, opposition party floor leader criticizes it before embargo lifted

By Korea Herald

Published : Sept. 29, 2022 - 05:30

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In response to the controversy that broke out over the use of foul language during his recent visit to New York, President Yoon Suk-yeol said that untrue news reports undermining the US alliance are endangering South Koreans.

He maintains that the news reports on his remarks are not true, so a probe is needed to uncover the truth.

MBC is the only media outlet to have recorded the video of Yoon speaking to his entourage while exiting the Global Fund conference in New York on Sept. 22.

At that time, an MBC cameraman was covering the conference as a pool reporter on behalf of other Korean broadcasting companies.

Yoon's voice was recorded in a noisy atmosphere shortly after the event ended.

The one minute 12 second video shot and broadcast by MBC carries Korean subtitles of Yoon's remark: "If (bastards) disapprove in the National Assembly, that would be a shame to Biden."

The presidential office claims Yoon did not say "Biden" but "nalimyeon," a Korean expression for "if someone blows away" and that the National Assembly is not the US Congress but South Korea's National Assembly.

Two words in the subtitles -- "bastards" and "Biden" -- jolted the nation. However, unlike the former word, "Biden" is not clearly audible.

And yet MBC inserted "Biden" in the subtitles and broadcast the video with it. Considering the presidential office's denial, the TV network does not seem to have received confirmation on the ambiguous pronunciation from the office.

Viewers are likely to think that Yoon was insulting the US President and US Congress.

Voice analysts say they cannot state categorically that the word in question was "Biden." Contextually, it is not logical, either, to comprehend it as "Biden." The presidential office says Yoon made the remark to the effect that it would be a shame (to Yoon) if the National Assembly rejects South Korea's pledge to contribute $100 million to the fund.

The video was transmitted to MBC headquarters at 6:28 a.m., which sent its pool coverage of the conference including the video to other broadcasting media by 7:30 a.m..

The video was embargoed until 9:39 a.m. It could be reported on after that time.

Then at 9 a.m., someone under a nickname wrote a post titled "Yoon Suk-yeol made big trouble" on an internet community. The writer said in the post that a remark insulting the US President and US Congress is said to be videotaped by "our reporters." Eighteen minutes later at 9:18 a.m., this writer replied to a comment on the post. The reply was that according to a message from a reporter covering the presidential office, MBC will broadcast the video. How could the writer know this decision in advance?

At 9:28 a.m., the writer posted again that reporters are said to have accepted the presidential office's request not to report the video. "I will disclose the remark in question out of anger,” the writer said. The videotaped remark was released 11 minutes before the embargo was to be lifted.

The alleged remark by Yoon that the writer disclosed turned out to be the same as the one in the video uploaded by MBC later, except for only one minor letter.

Five minutes later, at 9:33 a.m., in a meeting of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea which started at 9:30 a.m., Park Hong-keun, its floor leader, mentioned Yoon's remark and criticized it.

MBC first disclosed Yoon's remark by uploading the captioned video on YouTube at 10:07 a.m.

This is what happened on the morning of Sept. 22 in Korea. It raises many questions and suspicions. The Democratic Party said Park knew of the remark from social media, not from MBC, but it is reasonable to suspect that the network may have leaked the remark to Park intentionally. Later, the writer of the post was found to be a senior secretary to a lawmaker of the Democratic Party.

To clear up suspicions, the party needs to specify the social media post that it allegedly accessed before the embargo was lifted.

Many questions are being raised to the broadcasting network. Who at MBC wrote the caption so assertively despite parts of the remark being inaudible? On what grounds did it conclude that the ambiguously pronounced word was "Biden"? And why?

Above all, MBC should have made efforts to remove noise, consulted multiple voice experts and disclosed the experts. But no traces of such effort are found. If it wrote the caption arbitrarily without verifying the word in question with experts or the presidential office, it is violation of a principle of news reporting.