Status: Free
Legal Environment: 8
Political Influences: 11
Economic Pressures: 10
Total Score: 29

Population: n/a
GNI/capita: n/a
Life Expectancy: 77
Religious Groups: Christian (26 percent), Buddhist (26 percent), Confucian (1 percent), none (46%), other (1%)
Ethnic Groups: Korean
Capital: Seoul

Tensions heightened this year between President Roh Moo-hyun's liberal government and conservative newspapers as the ruling Uri Party supported media reform proposals that critics saw as attempts to tame the opposition press. The opposition was able in October to table revisions to the Registration of Periodicals Act that called for limiting both the size and editorial independence of the nation's leading daily newspapers. The revisions would have restricted newspapers to a market share of 30 percent apiece and a combined total of 60 percent for the three leading dailies. Chosun Ilbo (whose market share exceeds 30 percent), Dong-a Ilbo, and JoongAng Ilbo – the latter two papers President Roh sued for defamation in August 2003 – have a combined market share of over 70 percent. The bill would also have required newspapers to undertake expensive and restrictive efforts to protect "readers' rights" and would have created centralized, government-run distribution centers for periodicals.

Censorship of the media is against the law in South Korea, although the BBC states that journalists who report favorably on North Korea may face intimidation. A North Korean refugee group also reported receiving threats – including a threat against their landlord that led to eviction from their original office – after the February launch of FreeNK, a radio station aimed at stirring dissent in the north. South Korea boasts vibrant and diverse media, with over 100 daily newspapers across the nation. Three public and several private national television stations are major sources of news, and cable and satellite channels have been available since 2002. Most South Koreans have access to the Internet, and a significant number of young people get their news exclusively through electronic media. The Internet has had a democratizing effect on news and, along with 2003 media reforms that allowed smaller media greater access to government briefings, has increased competition in the media market.

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