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Hong Joon-pyo faces possible lawsuit over critical speech

Hong Joon-pyo, the 2017 presidential candidate for the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, faces a possible lawsuit by a local media outlet after he openly denounced its former CEO on Monday.

In a press briefing Sunday, the former South Gyeongang Province governor claimed that Hong Seok-hyun, former chairman of JoongAng Media Group which owns the broadcasting station JTBC and newspaper JoongAng Ilbo, traded his media conglomerate for a government position.

Hong Joon-pyo, the 2017 presidential candidate for the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (Yonhap)
Hong Joon-pyo, the 2017 presidential candidate for the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (Yonhap)

“I do not think the media here is normal. He laid a newspaper and a broadcasting station at the government’s feet and also put his nephew in jail in exchange for a mere special advisory position at Cheong Wa Dae,” he said, referring to the former media mogul, though he did not mention his name.

The speech came after the former governor announced his bid for the conservative party’s chief position.

Hong Seok-hyun’s JTBC broke the political scandal which led to the ouster of former conservative President Park Geun-hye in March. The scandal also resulted in his nephew, Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, being put behind bars almost four months ago. After Park’s impeachment, liberal President Moon Jae-in was elected in May.

Last month, the media chief visited the US as the new president’s special envoy and was tapped as his special adviser for unification, foreign affairs and national security upon returning. However, he has declined to take the post, the presidential office said Monday.

On Monday, JoongAng Ilbo released a statement denying the former governor’s claim and demanded he officially withdraw the remarks and apologize.

“We express deep regret over former Gov. Hong Joon-pyo’s claim which is far from the truth. We request him to retract his claim and offer a sincere apology. If he does not, we cannot help but ask for legal liability to protect the honor of the former company head and the company’s members,” the statement read.

On the media mogul’s appointment as a foreign adviser, it also said he had refused the position after the announcement was made.

“Soon after he was named as the special adviser for the government, Hong rejected the offer to Cheong Wa Dae.” The presidential office confirmed this later in the day.

The former provincial governor has come under fire many times for his outspoken rhetoric and hard-line conservative remarks. He is often referred to as “Hong Trump.”

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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