SEOUL, South Korea — When the South Korean artist Hong Sung-dam produced a painting that depicted President Park Geun-hye as a scarecrow manipulated by evil forces, including her dictator father, her senior aides discussed how to “punish” Mr. Hong, according to a diary one of them kept.
Soon after the painting’s completion in August 2014, the retaliation began as planned in the aide’s diary, which surfaced in November in the investigation into the corruption scandal that has led to Ms. Park’s impeachment trial.
First, a pro-government civic group sued Mr. Hong on charges of defaming Ms. Park. Then his work was excluded from the Gwangju Biennale, South Korea’s best-known international arts festival, an act Gwangju’s mayor later admitted was due to government pressure.
The retaliation did not stop there, Mr. Hong said. “Dozens of conservative activists showed up in front of my apartment like a goon squad, shaking my photographs and calling me a ‘Communist painter,’ ” he said. “I received death threats on the phone.”
As it turned out, Mr. Hong was one of thousands of artists reportedly blacklisted by the government of Ms. Park, whose powers have been suspended as she faces an impeachment trial on charges of corruption and abuse of power. The blacklist is one of several elements in the sprawling case that have infuriated the public and prompted national introspection about South Korea’s young democracy and its authoritarian past.
On Thursday, three of Ms. Park’s former aides, including one of her former culture ministers, Kim Jong-deok, were arrested on charges of blacklisting cultural figures deemed unfriendly and barring them from government-controlled support programs.
So far, two versions of the blacklist have been reported by the news media, citing anonymous sources. Officials, including the special prosecutor in the case, Park Young-soo, have confirmed the existence of the blacklist but have not released it.
A 2015 version of the list included more than 9,000 people, according to news reports. The list contained some of South Korea’s most beloved filmmakers, actors and writers, including the director of “Oldboy,” Park Chan-wook, and the “Snowpiercer” actor Song Kang-ho.
Officially, Ms. Park has made promoting movies and other cultural products one of her key priorities. But secretly, her government has blackballed artists, reviving a practice of past military dictators like her father, Park Chung-hee, and in so doing has “seriously undermined the freedom of thought and expression,” the special prosecutor’s office said.
The revelations about the cultural blacklist added a new layer of notoriety to the scandal surrounding Ms. Park, and prosecutors planned to use the list to help strengthen the impeachment charges against her.
When the National Assembly voted to impeach Ms. Park last month, it accused her of conspiring with her longtime confidante, Choi Soon-sil, to solicit bribes from businesses and crack down on uncooperative officials and journalists.
The special prosecutor is investigating whether Ms. Park and Kim Ki-choon — her former chief of staff, who was depicted as one of the dark forces in Mr. Hong’s painting — were involved in the blacklisting of artists.
Both Ms. Park and Mr. Kim, her former chief of staff, have denied involvement. However, another of Ms. Park’s former culture ministers, Yoo Jin-ryong, said the list was dictated by the president’s office.
On Monday, the current culture minister, Cho Yoon-sun, said, “I understand how pained artists must have felt when excluded from government support just because of their political and ideological beliefs.”
For many South Koreans, news of the blacklisting of artists reawakened memories from the nation’s dictatorial past.
Ms. Park’s father, who ruled South Korea from 1961 to 1979, censored newspapers and imprisoned dissident writers and publishers. Chun Doo-hwan, a military dictator during the 1980s, banished a comedian from TV after people compared the appearances of the two men. (Both were bald.) Subsequent governments were accused of favoring pro-government scholars and civic groups when doling out research projects and subsidies.
Under Ms. Park’s conservative predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, some celebrities and journalists deemed progressive were barred from state-controlled broadcasters.
But the latest revelations marked the first time the existence of an extensive government blacklist was revealed since South Korea moved toward democracy in the late 1980s.
“It’s an honor to be on the list,” Ko Un, one of South Korea’s best-known poets, told the broadcaster SBS last month, when it reported on another version of the list. “This shows how disgusting the government is.”
Under Ms. Park, whose leadership style is often compared to her father’s, rumors of a blacklist have been circulating for years.
The rumors intensified after two award-winning theatrical directors were mysteriously booted from government subsidy programs: one had campaigned for Ms. Park’s main opponent in the 2012 election; another had produced a play spoofing Ms. Park and her father.
And after the organizers of the Busan International Film Festival screened a documentary that delved into what it called Ms. Park’s botched response to the Sewol ferry disaster in 2014 in which more than 300 people died, the festival lost half of its government funding.
Mr. Yoo, the former culture minister, said Mr. Kim, Ms. Park’s chief of staff at the time, began ordering the culture ministry to blacklist certain artists in 2013. Last month, a former aide to Ms. Park was indicted on charges of colluding with her in an attempt to blackmail a vice chairwoman of CJ, which runs South Korea’s biggest film studio, into retiring in 2013. The company had angered Ms. Park’s office by financing a movie about her ideological enemy, the former President Roh Moo-hyun, Mr. Yoo said in a radio interview last month.
“I thought this kind of thing happened only under the past military rule,” CJ’s chairman, Sohn Kyung-shik, told a parliamentary hearing last month.
Mr. Yoo said that an early version of the blacklist he saw in June 2014 included hundreds of artists. Shortly before he was replaced a month later, Mr. Yoo said he met Ms. Park to warn against the list. (Ms. Park has denied being warned.)
By 2015, the list had ballooned to include more than 9,000 visual artists, musicians, actors, film and musical directors, and writers deemed critical of Ms. Park, particularly those who took aim at her handling of the ferry disaster or who were suspected of supporting her rivals, according to the Hankook Ilbo newspaper, which published what it claimed was the list in October.
Ms. Park’s office zealously pursued her opponents after the ferry disaster, according to the diary of Kim Young-han, the former presidential aide who detailed the retaliation against Mr. Hong. The ferry tragedy is a central motif in Mr. Hong’s painting.
During a meeting of senior presidential aides in 2014, Mr. Kim, Ms. Park’s chief of staff at the time, called for a “combative response to leftists in the cultural and art circles” and ordered the aides to “discover their networks,” according to the diary. He compared progressive teachers and journalists “to poisonous mushrooms.” The diary also recorded instructions to punish artists who satirized Ms. Park, conduct a “loyalty check” of senior government officials, “intimidate” courts of law and “induce” scholars to write pro-government newspaper columns.
“Make them afraid to challenge the president,” Mr. Kim was quoted as saying in a diary entry dated July 4, 2014.
He has denied giving such an order and said that the diary did not faithfully record what was actually discussed during the aides’ meetings.
The author of the diary, Kim Young-han, died in August, but prosecutors said they found it useful in building their case against Ms. Park.
Mr. Hong, the painter, said that for poor artists, being cut off from travel and other government support programs could be crushing.
In 2015, Mr. Hong was invited to show his painting at a Berlin arts festival. But no domestic logistics company would transport the work for fear of government retaliation. Mr. Hong had to travel alone and hurriedly repaint a copy of the original in Berlin. He also suspected the government was behind a tax audit of his wife’s clinic last year.
“It makes me shudder that Park Geun-hye and her cronies tried to tame artists by holding back a pittance of government support while they themselves pocket millions,” Mr. Hong said. “They showed how depraved political power can be.”
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