South Korea | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

South Korea

South Korea

Freedom of the Press 2003

2003 Scores

Press Status


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


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Freedom of expression is generally respected, although provisions in the National Security Law have been used to restrict the propagation of ideas that authorities consider Communist or pro-North Korean. Courts have in recent years jailed several journalists under criminal libel laws. Media rights groups say that politicians and businessmen use the libel laws to punish journalists for articles that are critical but factually accurate. In a controversial move, the National Tax Service in 2001 fined 23 media companies a record $390 million for tax evasion. Tax authorities also filed related criminal charges against five media executives and arrested three of them, including the owners of South Korea's two largest and more critical newspapers, Chosun Ilbo and Dong-a Ilbo. Both foreign and local observers differ over whether these media outlets were being targeted for their reporting or were simply being brought to book for tax evasion. Newspapers are privately owned and report fairly aggressively on governmental policies and alleged official wrongdoing. However, many are associated with substantial business interests, and journalists are also susceptible to bribery. Most broadcast media are state-subsidized, but offer diverse views.