The three days experienced by a reporter in Yongsan’s office… Why do I reject the ‘security app’?

[取중眞담]is a corner where full-time reporters take turns writing back stories, secret stories, and episodes experienced in the course of their coverage in a free way.[편집자말]

Today (13th) is the fourth day since I went to work at the Yongsan Presidential Office. When President Yoon Seok-yeol became a reporter at the Blue House, which was called the Gujung Palace, he is experiencing discomfort that he has never experienced at the Yongsan Government Complex.

This is a problem caused by the ‘security app’ for people entering and leaving the Yongsan government building. From the day of the inauguration ceremony of President Yoon on the 10th until now, some reporters who have been in and out of the Yongsan government building are facing this problem every day with the Presidential Security Service.

Why do you put a ‘prohibited’ sticker on your phone camera every day?

At the entrance of the first basement floor where employees and reporters come in and out (the president goes to work through the main entrance on the first floor or through the underground parking lot), it is inspected whether a security app is installed on the mobile phone. You need to install an application (app) that controls recording and tethering (Internet sharing function). That’s why every time I go to this place, I have my cell phone checked.

Confirmation of the ‘security app’ installation is limited to Android-based smartphones. There is no security app for iPhone. So, as a temporary measure, a ‘prohibited’ sticker is attached to the camera part. The Ministry of Security and Public Security announced that iPhones will not be allowed when entering in the future.

Some people put the app under pressure from the security staff to install a strong security app like this, and some said that it was installed. However, there are many reporters who protested and did not install a security app. Rather than installing an app, I put a ‘prohibited’ sticker on the camera lens of my phone every time I enter and exit.

Every morning, you can put your belongings, such as bags, into the X-ray checkpoint, and actively cooperate with the body search and passage. There is a press room in the same building as the president, so I think it’s necessary for the president’s safety. However, installing a security app is different. Although it is said to be inevitable, it is because there are obvious factors that make it difficult for reporters to cover and infringe on freedom.

The presidential office staff and journalists, who have security compliance obligations, are different. A reporter’s job is not to protect security, but to inform what is happening in the presidential office. Photos and recordings are ‘evidence’ of the coverage. If there is a risk that the photos and recordings obtained from inside the Yongsan government building could harm the president, it is an attitude of respect for the media to seek understanding and leave it up to the reporter to decide whether or not to disclose it. “The Blue House, a symbol of the imperial presidential system, returned it to the people as soon as it took office,” said Kang In-seon, spokesperson Kang In-seon on the 10th.

Kim Gun-hee’s ‘National Housekeeping’ Sandwich Photo Exclusive?


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President Yoon Seok-yeol talks with reporters at the Open Lounge, a briefing space in the presidential office in Yongsan, Seoul on the afternoon of the 13th.

President Yoon Seok-yeol talks with reporters at the Open Lounge, a briefing space in the presidential office in Yongsan, Seoul on the afternoon of the 13th.
ⓒ Yonhap News

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However, somehow, through the strict security rules, a single photo article was published at the Yongsan government building as well. On the 12th, a gossip article stating that the president’s spouse Kim Kun-hee served sandwiches to the participants of a closed meeting as a ‘national help’ was reported along with photos of people eating sandwiches. The article contained photos that had never been officially distributed to reporters in the presidential office.

The photo was taken at the office in the government building, a secure area where reporters cannot go. There are two possibilities. First, a meeting attendee may have taken a picture and passed it on to a reporter. This would be impossible if a security app was installed or a sticker was attached to the lens, but it is a violation of the security rules of the bodyguards because it was taken without permission and delivered to the reporter. The second possibility is that the photos were taken by the exclusive photographer in the presidential office. Of course, this is not a violation of security rules. However, in the second case, this photo was not disclosed to all reporters, but only provided to one media outlet to give an article.

If the meeting attendees took the picture, the security rules of the bodyguard were an exception for certain personnel. If the photo was taken by an exclusive photographer, it is discrimination that only gave news to a specific media company by distributing unofficial materials. It is common knowledge in the media industry that providing such discriminatory data is often used as a means of ‘taming the press’.

iPhone cannot be used in the presidential office

Reporters are still arguing with the bodyguards, but it is said that a number of presidential office employees are switching to Android smartphones because there is no security app for iPhones.

It is an orthodox theory that iPhones are much more powerful than Android phones when it comes to security against invasion of personal information. In Korea, it has become a recognized fact as a case of Justice Minister candidate Han Dong-hoon. He protected himself from the prosecution’s investigation in a very simple way of not giving out his password.

However, if Android security apps become mandatory in the presidential office, reporters and employees will not be able to use iPhones. Reporters who report with cameras and smart cell phones that can’t record are forced to write articles without evidence and rely only on data provided by the presidential office.

The appearance of President Yoon, who is seen off by his dog Tori every time he goes to work, makes people smile. Tori is playing that role as the president’s dog. The reporter’s role is a ‘Watch Dog’, a watchdog for power. Please respect the freedom of the press as well so that reporters are faithful to the watchdog’s duty, not a dog.


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President Yun Seok-yeol arrives at his home in Seocho-gu, Seoul on the 11th, as he is seen off by First Lady Kim Kun-hee. [대통령실 제공]

▲ Go to work with Ms. Kun-hee Kim see-off President Yun Seok-yeol arrives at his home in Seocho-gu, Seoul on the 11th, as he is seen off by First Lady Kim Kun-hee. [대통령실 제공]
ⓒ Yonhap News

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