South Korea is a vibrant democracy, having successfully completed its transition from authoritarian rule since the late 1980s. At the same time, a number of laws and regulations dating back to the Park Chung-hee era are still in effect. Libel and defamation laws in particular seem to be invoked by the authorities with increasing frequency. Critics argue the government is attempting to influence the public discourse and silence dissenters.

One of these critics is Professor Park Kyungshin, who has been advocating freedom of speech and opinion in South Korea, especially online. He gracefully agreed to be our guest for this episode, to talk about internet and press censorship, defamation and libel law, and the political environment of these measures.

Professor Park is a lawyer and law professor at the Korea University Law School, the Executive Director of the PSPD Public Interest Law Center, Commissioner at the Korean Communication Standards Commission and one of the leading figures behind OpenNet, a non-governmental organization defending the freedom and openness of South Korea’s internet. He earned his J.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles and an A.B. in Physics from Harvard.

About 28% of all people incarcerated for defamation were Koreans. Not North Koreans. South Koreans. […] We have a law criminally prosecuting opinions […] and many truthful statements – if you cannot prove that you said that solely for public interest, you are also criminally prosecuted. So [a worker] holding a picket sign « This employer didn’t pay my wages » truthfully, was criminally prosecuted and convicted of defamation.

The interview was conducted on March 6th in Seoul.