Korea’s two largest economic dailies are engaged in a rare public war of words that has exposed the shady aspects of the nation’s business media including corruption, fraud and intimidation.
Observers see the battle between the Korea Economic Daily and the Maeil Business Newspaper as a desperate struggle to take a greater share of an increasingly small market.
On Tuesday, Korea Economic featured half a dozen stories bashing the “dirty” business operations of its competitor.
“It has been the practice of media groups to turn a blind eye to each other’s wrongdoings. However, (Korea Economic) cannot sit still and ignore the illicit acts of Maeil Business Newspaper,” reads the lead story.
Korea Economic said its rival newspaper had published stories critical of private firms that did not advertise with the paper and blackmailed private companies to invest in its broadcasting network. It also noted that the Maeil Business Network cable channel was accused of stock manipulation in 2002.
It is uncommon for Korean newspapers to publicly attack each another.
MBC, a broadcasting network, was at odds with the Chosun Ilbo newspaper in 2004 after it reported on the daily newspaper’s biased articles and pro-Japanese activities during Japan’s colonial rule of Korea.
The latest bickering between the business dailies began after prime minister appointee Kim Yong-joon withdrew his nomination.
When Korea Economic Daily covered the story in its Feb. 1 edition, it mentioned similar withdrawals of nomination including that of Jang Dae-hwan, the chairman of Maeil, who was nominated as prime minister in 2002 by former President Kim Dae-jung but stepped down due to allegations including tax evasion.
That was the last straw for Maeil, which countered with a story of stock price manipulation by the Korea Economic Daily’s sister firm Korea Economic Wow TV.
Half a dozen officials including a former production director and a stock market analyst have been indicted for fraud and five or six others are being investigated.
They allegedly made profits by encouraging viewers to invest in stocks that they had bought before airing TV programs.
Korea Economic also revealed that Maeil’s sister TV channel MBN was involved in stock price manipulation in 2002 and blackmailed private firms that refused to chip in for starting a general cable channel service in 2011, calling its rival guilty of the “biggest evil” and “frantic journalism.”
Savings banks that invested in MBN, including Tomato and Solomon Savings Banks, had their operations suspended after the investments that eventually caused losses to depositors and investors, according to Korea Economic.
Officials from both newspapers said they would not back down and would take legal action if possible.
By Kim Young-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)