USFK rapped over press rules
PAO calls ‘taming’ tactic a prank
By Lee Tae-hoon
The defense correspondents’ association, comprised of 25 media outlets, decided in its meeting Tuesday to ask the United States Forces Korea (USFK) to change its “authoritarian” press guidelines.
“I believe there is a need for us to take collective action to urge the U.S. Forces to improve their way of dealing with the media,” said Bae Seong-jun, the head of the association and a reporter at broadcaster YTN.
The meeting was convened after The Korea Times raised issue with the USFK Public Affairs Office (PAO) decision to exclude its reporter from a press conference by Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, on April 17.
Multiple sources say the ban was imposed over the English newspaper’s failure to comply with a request to write a human interest story from an interview it had with U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John A. Macdonald, assistant chief of staff at the USFK, on April 11.
Bae said a USFK PAO official, who instructed defense ministry pressroom coordinator Kim An-joong to have The Korea Times reporter excluded from the meeting, offered a rather unconvincing excuse that his request was “a joke.”
“The PAO officer told me that he was surprised to find out that the reporter was actually delisted because of his joke,” he said, adding that he had stressed the need to have the reporter present as The Korea Times was only English newspaper available to attend the event at that time.
The USFK is accused of dropping The Korea Times from the list of invited media outlets, while lying to the association that its reporter was unable to attend the event due to a conflicting schedule.
Insiders said that the PAO official decided not to invite the reporter because Macdonald expressed strong discontent over his interview as the two-star general wanted the paper to publish a human interest story about his family rather than his forecast about the North Korean rocket launch as it was written.
Lee Moo-hyung, also a member of the association from broadcaster MBN, pointed out that it would not have held the meeting to deliver a protest to the USFK if the PAO dealt with reporters in a professional and sincere manner.
He pointed out that apart from the apology that the USFK makes to The Korea Times, the defense press corps should deliver a clear message to the USFK that it needs to make more efforts to regain trust from Korean reporters.
The case gave rise to a number of complaints that have accumulated for a long time over the authoritarian way the USFK handles the Korean press.
Some Korean reporters say their distrust against the USFK PR office was so deep-rooted that it even led to a mischaracterization of comments by Admiral Locklear.
They said Korean reporters had ignored the PAO’s request to soften wording regarding their reports about the U.S. admiral’s comments on future nuclear tests by the North due to their uneasy relations with the office.