On April 29th the MBC program PD수첩, which goes by various English names including “PD Notebook” and “PD Diary” (the PD stands for “producer”), broadcast a story falsely claiming that an American woman had died from eating beef infected with mad cow disease. They took a statement from the woman’s mother and deliberately mistranslated it — something we have seen at other times in the beef brouhaha. The Chosun Ilbo enjoyed raking them over the coals in English and in Korean. And the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is now saying it will take legal action against MBC.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has requested the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office (대검찰청) to open a slander investigation of the producers of the MC program “PD Notebook”.
The Ministry announced this in a press release on the 20th, following its judgment that an April 29th broadcast of “PD Notebook” was distorted and exaggerated and that it was one of the main causes of the current conflicted situation.
The Ministry had already announced it would seek legal action in an official note released on the 17th.
Explaining the reasons for this action the Ministry said, “a clear judgment on the truth or falsehood of the report must be made in the public sphere.”
According to the press release the Ministry believes that producers of the episode, titled “긴급취재! 미국산 쇠고기, 광우병에서 안전한가?”, distorted the facts through intentional mistranslation of English as well as selective editing, based it on only unsupported hypotheses and one-sided assertions, and used only that scientific evidence which supported them. Because of this, the Ministry explained, viewers came to believe that American beef and mad cow disease were frightful.
There was powerful criticism of the program. “The entire program failed to accurately reflect the Ministry’s investigations of the safety level of American beef. Confidence in the government has been fatally damaged by disparagement of its efforts to ensure the safety of food products from the United States and the cabinet ministers and others who negotiated the agreement have been directly slandered.”
The main points that the Ministry wishes to have investigated are: intentionally distorted reports about the death from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease of Aretha Vinson, an American woman; intentionally distorted reports claiming that “downer cows” in a film had mad cow disease; false reports that mad cow disease could be contracted from ramen soup, medicine, and cosmetics; and reports accusing the Ministry of not understanding the situation in the United States and then, after learning about it, covering up the facts in order to aid the importation process.
This does make me a little uncomfortable — as much as MBC is clearly at fault here, I don’t think it’s ok for the government to go after the press like this. I wouldn’t want to see my government going after 9/11 truthers, let alone any serious dissenters like say, Physicians for Human Rights. Anyway, here is the Chosun’s first Korean-language report debunking the program’s claims with data from the American Centers for Disease Control.
Update: Prosecutors in Seoul have officially opened their investigation.
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