Seoul bars British journalist who parodied president

In an apparent toughening of its attitude towards the foreign media, South Korea has rejected a request by Jeremy Hanley, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, to reinstate a British journalist expelled after writing articles poking fun at President Kim Young Sam.

Earlier this month Mr Hanley asked Gong Ro Myung, the Foreign Minister, to reconsider the case of Bruce Cheesman, who works for the Australian Financial Review. On 26 February, after nine years working in Seoul, his application for a new visa was rejected by the Justice Ministry.

Despite lobbying by diplomats, a government spokesman said the decision was "irrevocable" and Mr Cheesman would not be allowed to work again in South Korea.

No official reason has been given, but Sohn Woo Hyun, director-general of the foreign-media division of the Korean Overseas Information Service, said Mr Cheesman had violated immigration regulations by doing research while visiting the country as a tourist, and had "repeatedly gone beyond the bounds of what we consider sound journalistic practice. He repeatedly made false and defamatory allegations about the government of Korea."

Mr Cheesman insisted his visits as a tourist were made years ago and that what really rattled Seoul was his personal criticism of President Kim and members of his family.

Chief among the government's complaints is the case of the presidential Buddha. Last year Koreans were shaken by a series of disasters, including the collapse of a bridge and a store in Seoul in which more than 500 people were killed.

A Buddhist paper reported rumours that Mr Kim, a Christian, had ordered the removal of a Buddha statue from the garden of the presidential palace. This - the rumours went - had angered the heavens.

The President's men denied the Buddha had been moved. The Financial Review's jokey account, complete with cartoon, and citing inside sources, provoked fury. Mr Cheesman was hauled in for the latest in a series of official scoldings. Last week the Review received papers from lawyers for the Korean government initiating defamation proceedings.

But more decisive, Mr Cheesman believes, was the book he has been working on: an unofficial biography of Mr Kim focusing on the most controversial rumours which billow around the charismatic President. He admitted he has no documentary evidence for the most serious allegations.

But, based on interviews with former and serving politicians and aides and officials, the book will make embarrassing allegations about the funding of Mr Kim's 1992 election campaign and about the avowedly Christian President's private life.

The past few months have been a critical period for President Kim: as well as the trials of his predecessors Roh Tae Woo and Chun Doo Hwan, on charges of corruption, mutiny and treason, his New Korea Party faces parliamentary elections in a month's time which could rob him of control of the National Assembly.

Mr Sohn said: "This present action is not aimed at the foreign press, with whom we enjoy excellent working relations. The action we have taken is a legitimate recourse of a kind acceptable in any civilised country." Until this year, no correspondent had been expelled for professional reasons since the days of military dictatorship in the 1980s.

"The screws have been tightening in the last couple of months," said Mr Cheesman. "It is anti everything that the new Korea is supposed to stand for, a Third World mentality of worrying what the foreign press says about it."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Structural Engineer ...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Development Manager - OTE £36,000

£22000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A New Business Manager role sui...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - Inbound & Outbound Calls

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This particular opportunity is ...

Recruitment Genius: Windows Server Engineer - Compute Engineer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Compute Engineer role also ...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor