The biggest tax inspection of the media for decades, begun in February 2001, resulted in 2002 in the conviction of leaders of the country’s main conservative press and fines totalling nearly 400 million euros on their papers. In January, a Seoul court sentenced Cho Hee-joon, owner of Kookmin Ilbo, to three years in prison and a fine of 3 billion won (nearly 2.3 million euros) for tax evasion and embezzlement. Kim Byung-kwan, owner of Dong-A Ilbo, was sentenced in February for the same offences to three and a half years in jail and fined 4.5 billion won (about 3.5 million euros). Kim Byung-keon, his brother and co-owner of the paper, was also given a prison sentence and fined. All three remained free on bail pending appeals.
Bang Sang-hoon, president and publisher of the daily Chosun Ilbo, was sentenced by the Seoul district court on 30 September to three years in prison and fined 5.6 billion won (more than 4.5 million euros) for tax evasion. He too remained free on bail pending appeal.
Despite government insistence that the prosecutions were not politically-motivated, the conservative media said the inspections and legal action were aimed at silencing their criticism of President Kim Dae-jung’s government. Thirteen media proprietors in all were prosecuted.
Lee Chang-gi (editor) and Park Joon-young and Baek Oon-jong (journalists), of the far-left magazine Jajuminbo, were freed on bail on 9 February after being held for more than three months. They remained accused of violating the national security law by praising North Korea in articles and interviews that were also posted on the magazine’s Internet website, jajuminbo.com. The magazine, registered with the culture ministry in May 2000, published material about well-known North Korean figures and openly supported that country’s regime as well as dialogue between north and south.
Lee Jung-min and Han Yoo-jin, of a WebTV station, Internet-TV, were arrested 26 June for illegally entering a US military base with a group of demonstrators. They were handed over to South Korean police and held until 4 July. The arrests were made as demonstrations spread against the presence of US troops in the country.
Commerce, industry and energy minister Kook Hwan insulted and shoved Kim Eu-chul (journalist) and Yoon Ki-hyun (cameraman), of the public TV station KBS, and Jung Chul-woo, a cameraman with the TV station YTN, as they were covering his arrival at an opposition party meeting on 15 July.