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Former Culture Minister of South Korea Sentenced to Prison

Channel News Asia reports that Cho Yoon-sun, South Korea’s former culture minister, has been sentenced to two years in prison for her role in creating a blacklist of ten thousand artists whose political beliefs were not aligned with the now impeached president Park Geun-hye’s administration.

Cho originally received a suspended prison sentence and had been released from jail in July of last year after she was convicted of perjury for lying about her knowledge of the blacklist. However, after an appeals court reviewed the case it found her guilty of conspiracy and increased her penalty. Prior to Cho’s position as culture minister, she was Park’s policy adviser, and therefore, the court said it was “reasonable” to conclude that she had worked with Park in preventing state support of “certain artists.” Cho was then arrested in the courtroom on January 23.

“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 said. “There is no right or wrong in culture. . .once the government discriminates against those who think differently, it leads to totalitarianism.”

The blacklist included a wide range of artists from various fields, such as filmmaker Park Chan-Wook and writer Han Kang, who won the Man Booker International Prize in 2016. The discovery of the blacklist has prompted a wave of political reforms. The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism has since pledged to create new legislation that will protect artists from discrimination and political oppression.