Status: Free
Legal Environment: 9 (of 30)
Political Environment: 11 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 10 (of 30)
Total Score: 30 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

Freedom of the press is guaranteed under South Korean law and is generally respected in practice. Censorship of the media is against the law, though some websites have been blocked for posting pro – North Korean content, and the government requires all website operators to indicate whether their sites might be harmful to youths. Article 7 of the 1948 National Security Law allows imprisonment for praising or expressing sympathy for North Korea. However, the government also blocks the sale of video games that vilify North Korea. President Roh Moo-hyun's tenure has been marked by disputes with conservative media outlets, and critics alleged that the liberal Uri Party government was seeking to reduce the media's influence through two media reform laws that were passed in January 2005. But in June 2006, the Supreme Court struck down several measures in one of the January 2005 laws, the Law Governing the Guarantee of Freedom and Functions of Newspapers Etc. (also known as the Newspaper Law), which had required all newspapers, including those with internet sites, to register with the government and designated newspapers with a market share of more than 30 percent, or a combined total of 60 percent for three dailies, as "dominant market players." Such a designation would allow antimonopoly restrictions to be imposed. The legislation was believed to be aimed at the three major daily newspapers in South Korea, which are politically conservative and have voiced disapproval of many policies of the Roh administration. The three dailies, Chosun Ilbo, Dong-a Ilbo, and JoonAng Ilbo, had challenged the Newspaper Law, and the court determined by a vote of seven to two that the law was contrary to press freedom "because readers can freely decide which paper they want to read."

South Korea has vibrant and diverse media, with numerous cable, terrestrial, and satellite television stations and over 100 daily newspapers in Korean and English. Many newspapers depend on large corporations for their advertising revenue. There are both public and private radio and television stations, including an American Forces Network for the U.S. military. The internet is unrestricted by government regulation, and nearly 67 percent of the population was recorded as being online in 2006; a significant number of young people get their news exclusively from online sources. The South Korean online media are especially vigorous and innovative. For example, in 2000 an interactive internet news site called OhmyNews was launched, allowing citizens to submit their own news articles for immediate publication on the site.

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