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World Gas Conference organizer apologizes for banning media access

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Seats remain empty during the opening ceremony of the 28th World Gas Conference at EXCO in Daegu, Tuesday. Courtesy of World Gas Conference's National Organizing Committee
Seats remain empty during the opening ceremony of the 28th World Gas Conference at EXCO in Daegu, Tuesday. Courtesy of World Gas Conference's National Organizing Committee

Clumsy event management develops into political dispute

By Park Jae-hyuk

The 28th World Gas Conference's National Organizing Committee apologized late Tuesday for prohibiting reporters from covering President Yoon Suk-yeol's speech at the conference's opening ceremony held that morning in the southeastern city of Daegu.

The organizer's apology came after its "embargo request" developed into a political dispute, leading to an opposition party denouncing the president's indifference to journalists outside of the capital area.

"If you visit the media center on Wednesday morning, we will sincerely ask for your forgiveness for the inconvenience caused by a working-level employee's mistake," Shin Seung-seop, an organizing committee official dispatched from the Korea Gas Corp. (KOGAS), said in a letter of apology.

This is the first time for Korea and the third time for Asia to host the triennial conference which began in 1931 in London.

KOGAS, a state-owned natural gas supplier, is the conference's host partner that also chairs the organizing committee.

Three weeks prior to the opening ceremony, the organizing committee had asked reporters nationwide to preregister for the event, saying that they must arrive at the venue before 9 a.m. due to the enforcement of security policies.

However, the night before the opening ceremony, the organizer sent an urgent notice informing the preregistered reporters that they would not be able to enter the venue until 11 a.m., after the one-hour opening ceremony.

The opening ceremony was not broadcast live either, so the preregistered reporters at the venue had to rely on a press release to see what the president said in his speech.

Because the organizer mentioned "the Korean government's embargo request" in its notice, there was speculation that the presidential office had banned the preregistered reporters from covering the opening ceremony, so that only presidential office correspondents from Seoul would have access to the conference's main event.

"We do not doubt that the Korean government refers to the presidential office," minor opposition Justice Party spokesman Jang Tae-soo said in a press conference at the National Assembly, Tuesday. "Did President Yoon decide not to communicate with local communities?"

He accused the president of "stamping on" regional communities in his 17-minute speech.

President Yoon Suk-yeol, right, walks by after looking around SK E&S' exhibition booth during the World Gas Conference at EXCO in Daegu, Tuesday. Korea Times photo by Park Jae-hyuk
President Yoon Suk-yeol, right, walks by after looking around SK E&S' exhibition booth during the World Gas Conference at EXCO in Daegu, Tuesday. Korea Times photo by Park Jae-hyuk

The presidential office, however, denied the claim, saying that it had never asked for a ban on media access to the opening ceremony, although presidential office correspondents were only allowed to cover the president from a certain distance.

The conference's participants from more than 80 countries were actually able to take photos of Yoon after the opening ceremony while he looked around exhibition booths of domestic and foreign companies.


Park Jae-hyuk pjh@koreatimes.co.kr


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