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[Newsmaker] Former Arirang TV chief under probe for corporate fund misuse

The Culture Ministry has accepted the resignation of Bang Suk-ho, president & CEO of Arirang TV, Korea’s state-run English satellite and cable broadcaster.

Bang submitted his resignation to the ministry on Monday after local media reported allegations of misuse of the company funds during his overseas trips last year. The ministry will continue its probe into the allegations, which began late Monday night, his resignation notwithstanding.

“Bang is currently under investigation. The ministry will get to the bottom of this. His resignation is a separate matter,” said an official of the Culture Ministry.

 
Bang Suk-ho
Bang Suk-ho


The ministry added that it would press charges against Bang should it find the allegations to be true.

The National Union of Mediaworkers denounced the ministry’s decision to accept Bang’s resignation, saying that instead it should have “dismissed“ him with a firm action to uncover whether Bang used taxpayer’s money for personal expenses.

A local news outlet reported that Bang had allegedly used the company’s credit card for his own personal expenses, paying for dinner with his family at high-end restaurants during a business trip to the U.S. last year.

The trip in question is one he took to New York last September for to the live televised programming of President Park Geun-hye’s United Nations speech.

The report said that Bang filed his personal expenses with the company’s finance controller team as business expenses, such as dinner meetings with Korea’s representatives at the U.N. The expenses included luxury hotel and transportation bills.

He spent over $900 for a meal, and the local news media confirmed with the Korean representative office at the U.N. that none of the people Bang reported to have had dinner with had attended the meeting.

It was also reported that during a business trip to New York last May, Bang used the company’s credit card to pay for a meal costing over $1,000 at a restaurant near Duke University. Bang’s son graduated Duke University two days after the said dinner.

Bang admitted in a statement issued through Arirang TV that he “used the company’s credit card to buy his son and his friends a meal” during the graduation weekend.

Arirang TV said that it will recover the money spent on that dinner.

However, Bang said that his family had planned the September trip to New York long time ago, and denied that he traveled and dined with them with the company’s credit card, adding that the account team had made a “mistake while filing those receipts for expense settlements.”

Established in 1996 with the aim of promoting Korea’s policies and cultural content in English overseas, Arirang TV has had a series of misfortunes with underqualified chief executives who were mostly parachuted into the company from the Culture Ministry or Cheong Wa Dae despite having little or no experience in managing a broadcasting company.

Arirang TV is funded by the Korea Communications Commission.

Bang previously served as president of Korea Information Society Development Institute from 2008-2011, during which he was criticized for issuing an overly optimistic report on the effects of comprehensive programming channels. Bang was appointed CEO of Arirang TV in December 2014.

By Park Hyong-ki (hkp@heraldcorp.com)



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