Freedom of the Press

South Korea

South Korea

Freedom of the Press 2002

2002 Scores

Press Status


Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Print and broadcast media offer vigorous, independent coverage including strong criticism of government policies and officials. Such coverage, say journalists, sometimes results in politicians and businessmen using libel laws to punish journalists for articles that are accurate though critical. Courts sometimes jail journalists under criminal libel laws. Newspapers are privately owned and associated with substantial business interests. Most broadcast media are state subsidized, but they offer diverse views. The London-based Economist stated that a survey of 703 journalists revealed that about a fifth admitted being paid by their sources. In the most controversial step this year, the National Tax Service fined 23 media companies $390 million for tax evasion. Tax authorities filed criminal charges against five media executives and for many weeks imprisoned the publishers of the two largest newspapers, Chosun Ilbo and Dong-a Ilbo. The opposition and some international press-freedom associations accused the government of President Kim Dae Jung of trying to gag the press. The papers had been critical of Kim's economic reforms and overtures to North Korea. Many civic groups and the majority of citizens polled viewed the case as an appropriate tax evasion matter. The criminal charges and further threats nevertheless served to cast a pall over mainstream journalism by inhibiting or influencing some coverage, and reducing the credibility of the press.