(ATTN: UPDATES with press conference by board members opposing dismissal, minor edits throughout; ADDS photo)
SEOUL, Sept. 12 (Yonhap) -- The board of directors at South Korea's public broadcaster KBS passed a motion Tuesday to dismiss CEO Kim Eui-chul with the end of his term still more than a year away.
Six out of 11 board members, who are considered aligning with the ruling bloc, voted for Kim's dismissal during a meeting at the company headquarters in Seoul, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The five others, who stand with the opposition bloc, abstained from the vote in protest.
Members leaning toward the conservative ruling party submitted the motion in late August, holding Kim accountable for the broadcaster's worsening financial structure, a lack of leadership and the alleged decline in public trust, resulting from its "biased" news coverage, among others.
The decision becomes finalized when President Yoon Suk Yeol approves it. Kim was appointed for a three-year term in December 2021 under the administration of President Moon Jae-in.
In response, Kim argued that he didn't commit a wrongdoing grave enough to justify his dismissal and vowed to take legal action, calling the board meeting "just a formality."
"Like in the past, a tedious legal battle will continue," Kim said in a statement. "Undoubtedly, I will have to endure enormous personal and social hardships throughout this process."
The five opposition-affiliated members called a press conference to protest the decision.
"The passage is illegal because it lacks legitimacy in terms of procedure and content," they said in a statement during the conference. "We strongly protest the arbitrary decision by the members from the ruling bloc."
In June, Kim said he would resign if the government withdrew its decision to separate the collection of television license fees from electricity bills, but the Cabinet passed the revised Enforcement Decree of the Broadcasting Act in July.
KBS filed a petition with the Constitutional Court, citing potential damage to the foundation of public broadcasting and the risk of depriving the broadcaster of a crucial revenue source, but Kim has faced calls from employees to step down to take responsibility over the separation of the fees.
Since 1994, KBS has charged a monthly fee of 2,500 won (US$1.93) to every household with a television receiver on top of their electricity bills. The fee has been collected by the state-run Korea Electric Power Corp.
Kim is not the first KBS chief to be forced to step down before his or her three-year term ends after a new president takes office.
Former CEO Jeong Yeon-joo, who was appointed under liberal President Roh Moo-hyun, was fired in 2008, six months after conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office earlier that year.
Former CEO Ko Dae-young, who took helm under conservative President Park Geun-hye, was fired in 2018, less than a year after liberal President Moon Jae-in came to power.
Both of them filed administrative suits against the dismissals and won their cases about four years later, but they failed to return to the former posts as their three-year terms had already ended.
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