Home > Feature

Civilian-government committee to target all culture blacklists

By Yoon Min-sik

  • Published : Sept 18, 2017 - 17:17
  • Updated : Sept 18, 2017 - 17:17

The joint civilian-government committee investigating the Park Geun-hye administration’s blacklist of cultural figures said Monday it will expand its activities to probe the blacklist that precedes the Park administration.

Lawyer Cho Young-sun, the head of investigative subcommittee of the group, said that documents indicate that the blacklisting of controversial figures has been going on since at least 2008, when former President Lee Myung-bak was in office.

“We’re not limiting our investigation to just the Park administration’s list. If (cultural figures) were penalized during the Lee administration, we will investigate that as well,” he said during a media briefing in Seoul.

Former politician and actor Moon Sung-keun addresses reporters in front of the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office on Monday. (Yonhap)

In July, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism officially launched the committee to investigate the blacklist scandal. The committee is jointly headed by Culture Minister Do Jong-hwan and artist Shin Hak-chul and consists of 21 local artists -- most of whom were on the blacklist -- and four ministry officials.

Park -- currently being tried for her involvement in a corruption scandal involving her confidante Choi Soon-sil -- kept a list of artists who were to be excluded from receiving state funding. The list included left-leaning artists and those who supported Park’s political rivals, such as President Moon Jae-in.

Last month, it was revealed that the National Intelligence Service had kept a blacklist of cultural figures during the Lee administration as well.

Moon Sung-keun, a former politician and actor who was among the biggest names on the list, appeared before the investigators at Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office Monday as a blacklist victim.

“The blacklist increased during the past dictatorial administrations, but disappeared with democratization. It is amazing that the (blacklist) had been reinstated,” he told reporters. “The people who made the list, who followed orders, they all knew that it was illegal, and yet they just went with it. That was what shocked me the most: that there was little resistance.”

Moon said he is preparing to take legal actions.

Comedian Kim Mi-hwa is slated to testify Tuesday. She will also hold a press conference at the headquarters of the joint civilian-government investigative committee next Tuesday.

The committee urged cooperation from prosecutors and all government bodies related to the scandal, which it said was a deeply rooted problem in Korean society.

“The government documents (during previous administrations) revealed the link between Cheong Wa Dae, the NIS, the Culture Ministry and related organizations. After the presidential office orders exclusion of left-leaning artists, the NIS makes the list and the ministry creates a task force that puts pressure on related committees,” explained Cho.

He added that the phrase “keep it an unofficial guideline” keeps popping up in documents related to the blacklist.

Lee Won-jae, a spokesman for the committee, said there will be another briefing next month.

“Right now, we’ve only investigated the matter for about 15 days. We will alert the media and the public as soon as we discover more about it,” he said.

The committee last month launched a webpage (www.blacklist-free.kr) where anyone with knowledge about the blacklist scandals can provide information. So far, 25 cases have been reported to the committee.

The committee is conducting separate probes on six cases that it suspects are related to the blacklist, including the disruption of the decadeslong Seoul Theater Festival in 2015 when the organizers failed to secure its usual venue, Arko Arts Theater. The festival took place at an alternate venue.

The investigative committee also held a talk show at independent film theater Indiespace on Monday where some 200 cultural figures were given a chance to share stories about their life while on the blacklist.

By Yoon Min-sik (minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)