Press not free in once-democratic South Korea; Now YouTubers are being jailed

by WorldTribune Staff, September 22, 2021

The South Korean courts and the government of leftist President Moon Jae-In have stepped up their crackdown on press freedom by imprisoning YouTube commentators who are critical of the regime or entities which support it, a report said.

“Freedom of speech continues to be suppressed,” East Asia Research Center’s Tara O reported on Sept. 17.

Ahn Na-Gyeong, left, and Sohn Suk-Hee

The main media in South Korea, “especially the three so-called conservative newspapers — Chosun Ilbo, Joongang Ilbo, and Dong-a Ilbo — are all compromised,” Tara O told WorldTribune. “They played a huge part in Park Geun-Hye’s impeachment. So, they don’t talk about the truth on that. They also refuse to report on the April 2020 fraudulent elections. The main opposition party (PPP), especially its leaders, strongly condemn those who mention fraudulent elections, while the ruling party, the main beneficiary of the fraud, is silent.”

The YouTube report cited the case of Ku Ja-Woong, a YouTuber known as “Pacman” who has his own channel. Ku was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for defamation by the Seoul Northern District Court.

Tara O noted: “What was the defamation? On Jan. 27, 2019, Ku raised the question on his YouTube channel whether Sohn Suk-Hee, the CEO of JTBC, and Ahn Na-Gyeong, a TV announcer of major media outlet JTBC, were having an affair.

“In his decision to put Ku in jail, the judge explained that the major media and other YouTube channels did not raise the suspicion of the Sohn-Ahn affair, and only Ku raised the issue. The judge’s claim is false, since the suspicion about Sohn’s relationship with the woman was widely reported at that time. More importantly, another YouTuber noted that the court suggesting that Ku must think like everyone else, and that he should not have independent thoughts, makes one question whether the court is a people’s court in a totalitarian system.”

This is not the first time Sohn has sued for libel. Sohn also brought libel criminal charges against Byun Hee-Jai, Hwang Ui-Won, Lee Woo-Hee, and Oh Moon-Young, journalists at Mediawatch, a small media outlet with its own YouTube channel. All four received jail sentences, and they were carried out for Byun (1 year) and Hwang (6 months).

Another YouTuber, Choi Tae-Woon, received 2 years for defamation, Tara O noted. He began his jail sentence on Aug. 13.

“There are more,” Tara O noted. “In Korea, defamation/libel lawsuits are both civil and criminal court cases. Truth is not a defense, although it should be.”

Tara O continued: “Another note is that those on the other side of the Moon administration are slapped with defamation lawsuits a lot more frequently and investigated a lot more vigorously, and more of them end up in jail, whereas those on the current administration side usually do not face defamation lawsuits, rarely get investigated, or if investigated, treated with a kid glove, and I don’t recall any of them going to jail for it, although they propagate fake stories and incitement on a large scale. The bottom line is that defamation lawsuits are used to suppress freedom of speech and to violate human rights.”

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