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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 15)

09:20 June 15, 2019

Disregard for press
Justice minister slammed for refusing to take questions

Justice Minister Park Sang-ki has come under fire for a weird press conference on Wednesday at the Gwacheon Government Complex.

The press conference was arranged to access the activities of a special commission under the Ministry of Justice established to look into the prosecution's handling of the past wrongdoings of ranking officials.

Journalists boycotted the press conference because the ministry told them beforehand the minister would not be taking questions from the press. After receiving the notice, the journalists refused to attend the briefing, so the minister briefly delivered a readout for eight minutes even though there were no journalists registered with the ministry in the press room. Park spoke in front of just one camera from KTV, a state broadcaster run by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The commission has been working for 18 months to resolve the suspicions regarding some high-profile cases, such as the sexual and bribery scandal of Kim Hak-ui, who served briefly as vice justice minister during the previous Park Geun-hye administration.

Given the intense level of public interest in the cases that commission focused on, the ministry did not handle the press conference very well. Faced with the journalists' backlash, the ministry issued a statement to explain why the minister did not take questions which only aggravated the conflict. In the statement, the ministry explained that its briefing material handed out to the press was sufficient and that it was appropriate for the ministry's spokesperson to answer any questions. The journalists took this as a lame excuse.

It seems the minister shunned taking questions because he did not want to answer some sensitive questions that could arise from the press regarding the activities of the commission, which the minister initiated to clear the lingering suspicions over cases that have had huge social impacts, including the case of the so-called Jang Ja-yeon list.

The commission has been criticized for making unfounded assessments of previous investigations. There are questions that the people want asked regarding the commission's activities. So it was irresponsible for the minister to refuse questions from the press. It was arrogant of the minister to treat the press in such a manner. It also goes against President Moon Jae-in's focus on open communication with the public.

Judicial reform and clearing past misconduct are some of the trademark pledges of President Moon. The minster should take the blame for not doing much to accomplish these and only triggering new controversies due to his incompetence.
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