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Only Words on Paper? Freedom of Speech & Expression in South Korea

Title: Only Words on Paper? Freedom of Speech & Expression in South Korea Cover Page
Author: Geoffrey Fattig
Affiliation: University of California
Issue: Law & Order – Volume 6 Issue 1
Publisher: Yonsei University Press
Download as PDF


Article 21 of the constitution of the Republic of Korea guarantees all citizens the rights to freedom of speech and expression. However, these rights have been under increasing threat in recent years due to a number of factors, including direct government interference in media operations, criminal defamation statutes, national security concerns, and regulation of internet content. During this time, the country has come under criticism in these areas from a range of international organizations and the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights. This paper will provide an overview of the media climate in South Korea along with the attempts made by various administrations to stifle dissenting viewpoints. It will utilize historical narrative to differentiate factors which are common to both sides of the political spectrum from those which are largely defined by political affiliation. This approach will allow for a broader understanding of the issues undermining freedom of expression in the country, placing them in proper historical and cultural context.The main findings of the paper are that both liberal and conservative governments have been guilty of heavy-handed measures to restrict public discussion, but that the recurrence of national security as a salient political issue has had particularly disturbing implications for both freedom of expression and Korean democracy. It concludes by examining some possible causes underpinning these issues, and offering a summary and analysis of the proposals made by the UN Special Rapporteur to improve the climate for free speech in the country.

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