The forced media consolidation and dismissal of media workers in November 1980 by the then Chun Doo-hwan administration was illegal since it sought to exercise power and tame the media, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission said yesterday.
The Chun administration forced the consolidation of 64 media companies, including Dong-A Broadcasting, to take power in 1980, it said.
The commission recommended that the government take responsibility through issuing apologies and compensating victims in the first official government report on the incident.
Under the Chun administration, 28 newspapers, 29 broadcasters and seven communication networks saw their numbers fall to 14 newspapers, three broadcasters, and one communication network in November 1980. In addition, 172 periodicals were shut down and some 1,000 media workers lost their jobs.
The president of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Lee Young-jo told reporters, "Chun and military leaders drew up measures to regulate media companies whom they feared could hamper their taking of power", adding, "Such measures were taken by an organization with no legitimate authority and lacking in legal grounds and procedures".
In a news release, the commission also said, "Taking advantage of a national emergency, media company owners were summoned to the offices of the Defense Security Command and forced to sign statements giving up their businesses. Military officers carried pistols and bayonets to threaten and coax them into presenting such statements by threatening disadvantages".
"The military government sorted out 30 percent of media workers as dissidents based on intelligence data and information obtained through agents of the Defense Security Command. Media companies were forced to dismiss such workers".
The commission added, "On the surface, the dismissal was carried out under the voluntary decisions of the Korean Association of Newspapers and the Broadcasting Corporation. In reality, however, the Defense Security Command sent a list of people to be dismissed to each media company".
On the forced integration of the media in 1980, the commission said, "The government should acknowledge its responsibility in violating freedom of speech through use of its authority and apologize to the victims", adding, "It should also restore the honor of victims and pay damages".