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“Reporters cannot enter”…尹, read 11,385 characters for 50 minutes without answering questions.

‘Medical reform’ public address… Pointing out ‘one-way communication’

“Reporters are not allowed in.”

Briefing room on the first floor of the Presidential Office in Yongsan, Seoul on the morning of the 1st. Approximately 20 minutes before President Yoon Seok-yeol’s speech began, a Secret Service official in charge of the scene announced that it would be difficult for journalists other than the President’s Office staff to enter. Inside the briefing room were Presidential Policy Director Sung Tae-yoon, Senior Secretary for Social Affairs Jang Sang-yoon, Senior Secretary for Science Park Sang-wook, and First Deputy Director of the National Security Office Kim Tae-hyo. Soon after, Spokesperson Kim Soo-kyung and Senior Secretary for Political Affairs Han Oh-seop said to reporters, “I’m sorry I couldn’t answer the phone,” and entered the briefing room. Afterwards, the entrance door was closed. Reporters who came and went watched President Yoon’s remarks through live broadcast on YouTube or TV.

On this day, President Yoon stood at the podium in the briefing room and read his position on the expansion of medical school quota in 11,385 characters for 50 minutes. President Yoon took a sip of water twice during his remarks to clear his throat. This is President Yoon’s third address to the public, following his announcement of his position at the time of the 2022 Itaewon Halloween disaster and the failure to host the Busan Expo last year.

There are also criticisms that President Yoon read a long speech without reporters in attendance and with only his staff present, calling it ‘one-way communication.’ An official from the People Power Party said, “The president’s appearance with 9 days left before the general election appears to have chosen a too authoritarian communication method,” and added, “An offensive by the opposition party is also expected based on the method of communication rather than the message.” President Yoon has held an official press conference once since taking office, and doorstepping, which is a symbol of the launch of the current government, has been discontinued since July 2022. Previously, when announcing his position on the controversy surrounding First Lady Kim Kun-hee’s receipt of luxury Dior bags, President Yoon took the form of a ‘New Year’s conversation’ with a KBS anchor. Since press conferences and doorstepping were suspended, what has been filling the empty space are interviews with foreign media, President Yoon’s messages from his cabinet meetings, and public debates on people’s livelihood.

The President’s Office explained that the conversation was held without questions, saying, “It was necessary to accurately convey President Yoon’s position.” An official from the ruling party said, “There was progress in the President’s message that day, showing that he would not stick to the ‘2,000 quota’ line,” but added, “It is unfortunate that the communication was one-sided as the statement was read in front of only the staff.”

Reporter Jang Seok-seok jks@donga.com

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