(ATTN: UPDATES with more remarks from press conference, some executive board members' proposal to resign en masse in last 4 paras; ADDS photo)
By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, June 8 (Yonhap) -- The chief of South Korea's public broadcaster KBS said Thursday he will resign if the government withdraws its decision to separate the collection of television license fees from electricity bills, a move that would deprive the broadcaster of a key source of revenue.
KBS CEO Kim Eui-cheol, who was appointed under the previous Moon Jae-in administration, made the remark after the presidential office said Monday it has recommended the state broadcasting watchdog and the industry ministry amend laws to separate the state broadcaster's license fees from electricity bills.
KBS has charged a monthly fee of 2,500 won (US$1.91) to all households since 1994, and the fee has been embedded in monthly electricity bills and collected by state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp., a measure that ensures all households pay the fee.
But if the fee is separated from the electricity bills, many households are expected to refuse to pay the fee, leaving KBS without a key source of revenue.
"If I am the problem because I was appointed as CEO under the previous administration, I will put my CEO position down," Kim said during a press conference at KBS Hall in Seoul. "I hope the president will immediately withdraw the separation of license fee collection. I will step down as soon as it is withdrawn."
Kim raised concerns that the fee separation would deal a blow to its revenue structure.
"If that happens, KBS would face a crisis in fulfilling its public duties. I think preventing this is the most important responsibility as CEO," he said.
Kim requested a meeting with President Yoon Suk Yeol and proposed forming a committee involving KBS, the Korea Communications Commission and the industry ministry to discuss the issue.
He said it is regrettable that the broadcaster has been completely excluded from the discussion process and the government did not separately ask for the company's opinion before making a decision on the important matter.
Some members of the company's executive board held a separate press conference later in the day calling for the CEO's immediate resignation without any conditions attached.
"KBS should use the separation of television license fee collection as an opportunity to reflect on itself before criticizing either the presidential office or a particular political party," the four members said.
They proposed the executives and the board resign together to take responsibility for the current situation.
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