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Thursday, 8 February, 2001, 14:44 GMT
Tax audit for South Korea media
The Korea Times internet site
Some critics say the probe is political
By Caroline Gluck in Seoul

The South Korean authorities have begun a tax audit of the country's main media companies for the first time in seven years.

It is the largest single audit on any single business sector, and half of the tax bureau's investigation team are taking part in the probe.


This is an elaborate plot to tame the press

Opposition Grand National Party
Several newspapers and opposition politicians have criticised the audit, accusing the government of trying to quell media criticism of its performance.

"This is an elaborate plot to tame the press," the opposition Grand National Party said in a statement.

Complex system

For its part, the government has denied the moves represent any attack on the freedom of the press.

As many as 400 tax auditors began their work on Thursday, investigating a total of 23 broadcasters and newspapers.

In the past, tax investigations have been used by incumbent governments to bring uncooperative companies to book.

The tax system is notoriously complex. It was criticised this week by the International Monetary Fund as being unnecessarily so.

Anti-trust probe

Even the best intentioned companies have sometimes found themselves falling foul of the law.

Accusations that the audit represents an attempt to control the media have been reinforced by an announcement by the anti-trust agency that it will conduct its first even large-scale probe into the media.

They say that the media has to observe the law and should be transparent in their operations, just like any other industry.

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See also:

19 Dec 00 | Review
Collapse of the Korean chaebol
19 Nov 00 | Business
S. Korean rally against reforms
21 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Koreas continue transport link talks
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