KOREA: Opposition moves to change newspaper law
Grand National Party seeks to revise clauses in newspaper law, taking into account recent petitions and criticism from major publications
The Korea Times
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
By Jung Sung-ki
Seoul -- Korea’s largest opposition party, the Grand National Party (GNP), Wednesday submitted to the National Assembly a revision of the Newspaper Law aimed at erasing what it sees as unconstitutional articles, and includes an arbitrary regulation on the market shares of newspaper companies.
The submission of the revision came just one day before the law governing the newspaper industry is due to take effect. The Cabinet approved an enforcement decree on the Newspaper Law that was passed last January by the Assembly on July 19.
"The laws proposed by the ruling Uri Party have too many problems in terms of content and the process in which they were passed," said Rep. Shim Jae-chul, the politican who initiated the revision. "So we came up with the revised version based on opinions sounded out at a public hearing on the Newspaper Law last month."
Shim said he will attempt to pass the revision during the Assembly’s session slated for September.
The draft revision would delete a clause of the revised Newspaper Law calling for sanctions against a newspaper company with more than 30 percent of the total market share, the journalist-turned-lawmaker said.
Under the government’s enforcement decree, no single newspaper firm is allowed to have a market share of more than 30 percent. It also stipulates that the top three whose combined market share exceeds 60 percent would have sanctions imposed, such as monetary penalties, as monopolistic businesses under the Fair Trade Act.
But the clause has been criticized by legal experts as well as the country’s major dailies, including the Chosun Ilbo and the Dong-A Ilbo, for its "stricter" regulation on the market share of newspaper companies, which is above that imposed on other businesses.
Earlier this year, the Chosun Ilbo and the Dong-A Ilbo filed a petition with the Constitutional Court over the revised law’s constitutionality, denouncing the revision as a "pro-governing party" newspaper law, running counter to the Constitution and the principles of a free market economy.
Currently, corporations are allowed to hold a 50 percent market share, or three companies can hold a combined share of 75 percent under the Fair Trade Act.
The GNP-proposed revision would also cut out a clause requiring the establishment of a joint newspaper distribution center funded by the government, calling for the freedom of newspaper firms to decide their own methods of delivery.
The revision also seeks to set up an independent editorial committee in order to reduce government control over newspapers. The new law requires an editorial committee, called the Newspaper Development Committee under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, be established at newspaper companies.
In addition, the revision seeks to legalize the use of state funds for improving the "competency of newspaper companies." Under the new Newspaper Law, the government is allowed to financially support newspapers that abide by relevant laws with the Newspaper Development Fund, which is to be operated by the Newspaper Development Committee.
Date Posted: 7/27/2005