South Korean leader suspends Q&A with reporters amid media

By HYUNG-JIN KIM – Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s new president has suspended his morning question-and-answer sessions with reporters after arguing with a broadcaster over coverage of his remarks taken from a searing microphone in the states. -United.

Since taking office in May, Yoon had regularly received questions from reporters in the lobby of the presidential building on his way to work in the morning. The so-called “door-to-door” sessions were highly unusual in South Korea, where many of Yoon’s predecessors have been criticized for avoiding meetings with reporters to avoid sensitive questions.

Yoon, a former top conservative prosecutor, promised in his presidential election to improve communication with the public. He even moved the presidential office to the current Ministry of Defense compound abandoning the old Blue House on the mountainside, whose structure and location he says contributed to former leaders being cut off. of the public and wield “imperial power”.

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But on Monday, his office said in a statement that “a recent unsavory incident” led him to determine that the question-and-answer session could not be held.

“Door-stepping was initiated in the interest of open communication with the public. We will consider whether to resume it if certain steps that may well achieve its purpose are taken,” the statement said.

“The Unsavory Incident” referred to an altercation between one of Yoon’s aides and an MBC TV reporter over his office’s decision to ban the MBC team from the media pool from his presidential plane to Cambodia and Indonesia for summits earlier this month.

Yoon’s office said MBC was banned because of its “repeated distortion and biased reporting” on diplomatic issues. The broadcaster recorded Yoon talking to aides after a brief meeting with President Joe Biden at a conference in New York in September. While parts of the audio were unclear, Yoon could be heard using indecent language.

MBC added captions: “Wouldn’t it be too embarrassing for Biden if those idiots in the Legislature don’t approve?” Yoon denied making any reference to Biden or the US Congress.

During last Friday’s door-to-door session, Yoon defended MBC’s ban as inevitable, accusing MBC of “very malicious acts” to drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States. United with fake news. As Yoon was leaving, an MBC reporter shouted behind his back, saying, “What evil deeds has MBC done?” Afterwards, the reporter and one of Yoon’s aides had a furious exchange of words, which quickly went viral on social media and fueled political rows between Yoon’s supporters and opponents.

Some journalists’ organizations and Yoon’s liberal rivals criticized MBC’s ban as threatening press freedom in South Korea. Yoon’s supporters said MBC self-imposed the ban because of its unfair reporting.

Yoon is a political novice, having spent most of his professional career as a prosecutor before entering local politics last year and winning the hotly contested presidential election in March. Some credited his “door-to-door” sessions for showing his efforts to be a different leader and improve communications, but others said his unprepared and unfiltered comments contributed to his approval rating. relatively weak as the new president.

The main liberal opposition Democratic Party called Yoon’s suspension of door-to-door sessions “close-minded”.

“Is asking the president an uncomfortable question an unsavory incident? If he aims for open communication, he must be broad-minded to tolerate uncomfortable questions as well,” said Ahn Ho-young, spokesperson. party.

Kim Jong-hyuk, a senior member of Yoon’s ruling People Power Party, accused MBC of acting as a “war on the presidential office” based on its alleged “distorted sense of superiority”. “Is MBC not confusing freedom of the press with the freedom to freely send fake news and continue to do manipulated and exaggerated reporting?” he said.

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