Broadcasting regulator chairman attends hearing for arrest warrant

Han Sang-hyuk, chairman of the Korea Communications Commission, attends his arrest warrant hearing at the Seoul Northern District Court on March 29. [KIM JONG-HO]

A court held an arrest warrant hearing Wednesday for the chief of the state broadcasting regulator over suspected score manipulation during the renewal of a broadcasting license for a cable TV channel in 2020.

Korea Communications Commission (KCC) Chairman Han Sang-hyuk, an official appointed by former liberal President Moon Jae-in, arrived at the Seoul Northern District Court at 1:22 p.m. to attend the hearing.

Last Friday, prosecutors requested a pretrial warrant to detain Han on charges of involvement in deliberately giving low scores to TV Chosun, a right-leaning cable channel, during its license renewal evaluation process three years ago.

The court's decision on Han's arrest warrant is expected to come out Wednesday night.

Two former KCC officials and a professor who formerly chaired the license review panel were earlier arrested and indicted in connection with the allegations.

Han is suspected of having instructed the two former KCC officials and the professor to lower the final evaluation score of TV Chosun.

Han has denied all his charges.

"I'll do my best to prove my innocence. Any instruction to change the score was not included in the arrest warrant request, and I also deny the suspicion that I turned a blind eye despite knowing about the changed score," Han told reporters at the court.

He then reaffirmed his determination to keep his KCC chairmanship.

TV Chosun received 653.39 points in the review, just passing the 650-point threshold for the renewal of cable channel licenses, resulting in a conditional approval. The cable network got low scores in key categories, such as responsible and objective broadcasting.

But the state audit agency notified the prosecution last year that review panel members had deliberately lowered their evaluation scores for TV Chosun.