Home / Arts & Life / 6 Ex-Officials in South Korea Are Sentenced for Blacklisting Artists

6 Ex-Officials in South Korea Are Sentenced for Blacklisting Artists

Revelations about the blacklist have infuriated the public, fueling widespread accusations that Ms. Park was taking South Korea back to the time when her father, the military dictator Park Chung-hee, ruled by gagging dissidents. For months, protesters gathered in huge weekend rallies in center of the capital, Seoul, demanding Ms. Park’s removal.

Judge Hwang said the discrimination against those on the blacklist was enforced “secretly, but persistently.”

He said the tactic had “humiliated” many Culture Ministry officials who were forced to implement it. Ms. Park conspired with Kim Jong-deok, the former culture minister, he said, to pressure into retirement a senior ministry official who did not cooperate with her policy.

In January, a special prosecutor investigating Ms. Park’s case arrested Kim Ki-choon, her former chief of staff, who has been the focus of public anger because of his background.


Another former culture minister, Cho Yoon-sun, was convicted of perjury, but received a suspended prison term.

Yonhap, via European Pressphoto Agency

Mr. Kim, a prosecutor by training, served as a senior anti-communist investigator at the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, the government’s main intelligence body in the 1970s, when it often framed dissidents with charges extracted through torture that they were communists or sympathetic toward North Korea. Many of its victims were able to clear the charges only decades later, through retrials allowed under a democratized South Korea.

Mr. Kim went on to become a justice minister and three-term lawmaker under conservative governments. He returned to the center of power with Ms. Park’s election, serving as her powerful chief of staff from 2013 to 2015. One of the first things he was accused of doing under her administration was blacklisting artists, writers and journalists deemed unfriendly to the government, reviving a practice from the country’s dictatorial past.

During his trial, Mr. Kim denied any wrongdoing, insisting that he was trying to strike a balance in government support between progressive and conservative artists. He has a week to appeal Thursday’s ruling.

Investigators have not disclosed the names on the blacklist. But according to a version of the list made public by lawmakers, the number of people on it had risen to nearly 10,000 by 2015, including many of the country’s best-known film directors, novelists and poets. Among them were Han Kang, a writer who was awarded the Man Booker International Prize in 2016, and Park Chan-wook, the director of the film “Oldboy.”

The blacklisting was an ironic legacy for Ms. Park, who had vowed to make South Korea a “cultural power” by promoting the arts and other cultural products.

While blackballing some artists, Ms. Park’s office ensured that pro-government civic groups received special favors, the special prosecutor said. It asked the Federation of Korean Industries, which lobbies on behalf of Samsung and other big businesses, to provide $5.9 million for those groups between 2014 and 2016, the prosecutor said. Some of those groups, such as the right-wing Korea Parent Federation, used to hold noisy protests in central Seoul denouncing Ms. Park’s critics as communists.

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