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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Times on Jan. 23)

All News 07:07 January 23, 2017

Cheong Wa Dae's censorship
: President is primarily responsible for cultural blacklist

President Park Geun-hye lashed out at the independent counsel, Sunday, for its investigation into an alleged blacklist of cultural figures who are critical of her policies.

In a statement through her lawyers, Park denied she gave instructions to create such a list. She even vowed legal action against the media that reported that she gave orders to create the list of anti-government cultural figures a month after the 2014 Sewol ferry sinking.

Park's furious reaction came after two former key presidential aides Kim Ki-choon and Cho Yoon-sun were arrested Saturday for their alleged involvement in creating the list. Kim was Park's chief of staff and Cho, who resigned as culture minister after being arrested, was senior presidential secretary for political affairs at the time.

Prosecutors believe the two played key roles in making the list of anti-Park figures in the cultural sector and excluding them from government funding programs.

The prosecutors summoned Cho and Kim for questioning Sunday to get to the bottom of Park's role in the blacklist. It reportedly contains some of Korea's most acclaimed people in the arts, such as novelist Han Kang, winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize, and film director Park Chan-wook, a winner of various renowned international film awards.

The President is seriously mistaken if she believes she can distance herself from the blacklist by saying she did not give orders for it to be made. During a recent parliamentary hearing, Cho reluctantly admitted the existence of the blacklist, saying "I have been informed that a list barring some artists from government support programs does exist."

No matter what Park says, it has become clear that the cultural blacklist, which is a grave violation of the Constitution and an infringement of freedom of expression, was created during her presidency under the initiative of two of her closest aides.

As President, Park is primarily responsible for the blacklist, even though she says she did not give relevant instructions. If such an undemocratic task was being performed by her aides without presidential orders, Park should have stopped it and removed those involved from office.

The presidential thing to do after her two former aides were arrested would have been to say, "I am the President. I am responsible," instead of emphasizing that she had nothing to do with the blacklist and threatening the media with lawsuits.

The independent counsel team plans to question Park within the next few weeks. If she really is innocent, she should appear at the questioning and give a truthful account of her role in the creation of the blacklist.

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