Last Updated: Thursday, 24 July 2014, 09:38 GMT

Freedom of the Press - South Korea (2006)

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 27 April 2006
Cite as Freedom House, Freedom of the Press - South Korea (2006), 27 April 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/473451ec1c.html [accessed 24 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Status: Free
Legal Environment: 9
Political Influences: 11
Economic Pressures: 10
Total Score: 30

Population: n/a
GNI/capita: n/a
Life Expectancy: 77
Religious Groups: Christian (26 percent), Buddhist (26 percent), Confucian (1 percent), other (47 percent)
Ethnic Groups: Korean
Capital: Seoul

President Roh Moo-hyun's tenure as head of the liberal Uri Party government has been marked by disputes with conservative media outlets and allegations that the government has acted to reduce the media's influence through two new media reform laws that were passed in January. The Law Governing the Guarantee of Freedom and Functions of Newspapers Etc. (also known as the Newspaper Law) requires all newspapers, including those with internet sites, to register with the government and designates newspapers with a market share of more than 30 percent, or a combined total of 60 percent for three dailies, as "dominant market players." In the event that a dominant player engages in unfair trade practices, it may be subject to a cease-and-desist order or suffer financial penalties. The law also allows for the creation of a newspaper distribution agency. Despite local and international opposition, the law went into effect in July; however, the newspapers Chosun Ilbo (whose market share exceeds 30 percent) and Dong-a Ilbo have challenged its constitutionality. A second piece of legislation, the Law Governing Press Arbitration and Damage Relief (also known as the Press Arbitration Law), empowers the Press Arbitration Commission to examine infringements by media of the interests of the state and individual citizens; third-party petitions concerning infringements are also permitted in the absence of a direct petition from a victim. In July, the new powers of the Press Arbitration Commission allowed the Roh administration to appeal for corrections in an editorial piece published in Chosun Ilbo about President Roh's coalition government. Censorship of the media is against the law in South Korea, though some websites have been blocked for posting pro-North Korean content and the government requires all website operators to indicate if their site might be harmful to youths. It was confirmed in 2005 that the secret service uses wire and phone taps for journalist surveillance. Reporters Sans Frontieres reported that the daily Munhwa Ilbo had its phones tapped after publishing an investigation into corruption in the secret services.

South Korea has a vibrant and diverse media, with numerous cable, terrestrial, and satellite television stations and over 100 daily newspapers in Korean and English across the nation. Many newspapers depend financially on large corporations for their advertising revenue. There are both public and privately owned radio and television broadcast stations, including an American Forces Network for the U.S. military. The South Korean online media are especially vigorous and innovative. For example, in 2000 Oh Yeon Ho started an interactive internet news site called OhMyNews where citizens can submit their own news articles which are often published immediately on the site. An estimated 67 percent of South Koreans have access to the internet and a significant number of young people get their news exclusively via electronic media.

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