Prosecutors indicted five MBC
production staffers without detention on charges of defaming government
officials and obstructing the business of U.S. beef importers by
broadcasting a controversial April 2008 “PD Diary” episode about mad
Wrapping up a one-year investigation, prosecutors concluded that MBC
staff members - four producers and a scriptwriter - deliberately
created a biased report on the safety of U.S. beef and mad cow disease
and thus defamed then Agriculture Minister Chung Woon-chun and Min Dong-seok,
former deputy minister and chief negotiator on the U.S. beef import
The announcement came a year after the Ministry for Food, Agriculture,
Forestry and Fisheries filed a complaint with the Supreme Public
Prosecutors’ Office. Prosecutors said MBC workers distorted facts,
deliberately mistranslated and exaggerated threats of mad cow disease
in relation to U.S. beef.
“The suspects mistranslated some 30 scenes shown in the episode,
omitted explanations for important facts about the scenes, and reported
false information,” Jeong Byeong-du, a senior prosecutor, said in the
press briefing. “The media’s critical comments about government
policies are necessary, but they should be made based on facts.
Distortion of facts cannot be protected by law.”
But PD Diary staff expressed anger over the prosecutor’s investigation
saying it has challenged press freedom.
“This simply is a politically motivated investigation by prosecutors
who receive orders from the government,” PD Diary producer Cho Neung-hee
In the key episode, PD Diary stated it was highly likely that an
American woman named Aretha Vinson died of a human form of mad cow
disease after eating U.S. beef. But prosecutors found neither Vinson’s
family nor her doctor confirmed she died by the disease.
PD Diary stated that her doctor said she is suspected to have died from
the disease. But her doctor told prosecutors that he simply explained
to MBC the causes and symptoms of the human form of mad cow disease. In
addition, the doctor refused to comment to MBC on the cause of death of
Vinson, citing her privacy, prosecutors said. A recent investigation
based on data provided by U.S. health officials revealed that Vinson
died of a brain disease not associated with beef consumption.
Last year’s show fueled public anger and led tens of thousands of
people to the streets to participate in candlelight vigils calling for
the Korean government to renegotiate the U.S. beef deal.
Prosecutors yesterday disclosed e-mails that PD Diary scriptwriter Kim
Eun-hee wrote. Prosecutors said they contained her strong opposition to
the current government. Because she was deeply involved in creating the
program, prosecutors said the e-mails are evidence that the report was
not objective, but willfully intended to distort facts. In an e-mail
written on April 18, 2008, Kim wrote “While I’ve been looking for an
item for PD Diary, I was looking for ways to release my indignation
over the outcome of the general election.”
In another e-mail written by Kim on June 7, 2008, she wrote “I get
really into making a program one or two times a year... This year’s mad
cow disease was one of them. I think that was because anger over Lee
Myung-bak was at a peak at that time after the general election.
Because I’m still very interested in ‘the fate of Lee,’ I’ve spent a
lot of time watching the candlelight vigils and looking at [the online
discussion forum] Agora on Daum.”
Kim criticized the prosecution for disclosing her e-mails, saying it
has infringed on her right to privacy. “I will file a lawsuit against
prosecutors and I will file a complaint to the National Human Rights
Commission as well. I will also take legal action against media that
run my e-mail,” Kim yesterday was quoted by Media Today. “Prosecutors
could have submitted those e-mails as reference to the court,” said Kim
Hyeong-rae, a lawyer representing PD Diary staff.
By Lee Chul-jae, Kim Mi-ju