KBS chief rejects calls for resignation

May 21, 2014
Gil Hwan-young (Yonhap)

Gil Hwan-young is accused of having excessively influenced newsroom decisions to produce programs favorable to President Park Geun-hye. (Yonhap)

By Kim Se-jeong

KBS CEO Gil Hwan-young said Wednesday he would not give in to union demands for his resignation.

“I won’t tolerate any moves by politically oriented workers to destroy KBS. I will hold them responsible,” Gil said in a speech to employees. “I will stay and I’m open for discussions. I’m willing to talk.”

His comments came as thousands of the firm’s unionists started voting to determine whether to go on strike. The vote will continue until next Tuesday.

Hundreds of KBS staff ― including editors, anchors and reporters ― have boycotted work, demanding the immediate resignation of Gil, who they claim is a government proxy.

Many fear that KBS could descend into chaos if Gil refuses to resign and KBS reporters go on strike, as those at MBC and YTN did two years ago.

In 2012, unionists of MBC and YTN went on strike demanding the resignations of their government-affiliated CEOs. However, the firms sacked striking union members, calling their action illegal.

Gil said if KBS workers go on strike, it would be illegal.

“The union is now moving to launch an illegal strike. I won’t accept that,” he said.

Gil is accused of having excessively influenced newsroom decisions to produce programs favorable to President Park Geun-hye. He has allegedly filled senior positions with those with favorable views of the government, as well.

KBS is a publically-funded institution. Gil was appointed in 2012 by former President Lee Myung-bak to a three-year term.

Reporters began boycotting news reporting Monday; and viewers saw KBS’s prime-time live news show shortened.

The CEO had planned meeting with employees on Monday morning to prevent the boycott, but was obstructed at the gate of the company by members of the union. He unsuccessfully tried to make his way into the building, generating physical confrontation with union members.

Demands for Gil’s resignation began on May 9 when former newsroom chief Kim Si-gon revealed that Gil had tried to censor the broadcaster’s news coverage.

Kim alleged that the CEO had instructed him not to give priority to former Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Yoon Chang-jung’s sexual harassment scandal, saying Gil’s obsession with the Park administration was apparent.

Kim’s statement triggered outrage among reporters who hold an unfavorable view of Gil. According to a KBS union survey, 97.9 percent of respondents want him to step down.

So far, more than 50 senior editors have offered to resign.