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  • Jan 25, 2018

Former South Korean Culture Minister Jailed For Artist Blacklist

The former culture minister of South Korea, Cho Yoon-sun (center), has received a prison sentence for her involvement with a blacklist that was designed to impede the careers of cultural figures in the country. Image from video by JTBC News.

On Tuesday, January 23, the South Korean appeals court sentenced former cultural minister Cho Yoon-sun to two years in prison for her involvement in drawing up a blacklist of more than 9,000 artists and cultural figures.

The blacklist was a roster of artists, directors, writers and other individuals who were critical of the country’s then-president Park Geun-hye. Those who were affected by the ban included internationally acclaimed film director Park Chan-wook, who is most well known for his film Oldboy (2003), and novelist Han Kang, who won the Man Booker International Prize in 2016 for The Vegetarian (2007). Park and her cohorts intended to put targeted artists under surveillance and block them from receiving state funding, as well as limiting their access to private funding.

Cho was first charged over the blacklist scandal last February, and prior to the appeals court’s review of her case, she had been cleared of the charge and was only given a suspended sentence of one year for perjury in July. On Sunday, January 21, Cho, who was out on bail, was arrested and taken into custody along with Park’s former chief of staff, Kim Chi-choon, whose prison sentence had been increased from three years to four by the high court in Seoul. “It is unprecedented that the president and her aides, who are at the top of the highest powers, organized, planned and carried out such discriminatory treatment,” the court commented. “There is no right or wrong in culture [. . .] once the government discriminates against those who think differently, it leads to totalitarianism.”

Park, who was impeached for corruption and peddling influence in March 2017, has denied any complicity in the blacklist. She has been standing trial since May 2017.

Julee WJ Chung is the assistant editor of ArtAsiaPacific.

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