Criticizing President Park Is Dangerous in Korea – Le Monde

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Le Monde: Criticizing President Park And Her Familiy Entails Risk

Re Monde's online article reports criticizing of President Park and her family become dangerous in South Korea

Le Monde published an online edition of the article on Oct. 15 saying that it is dangerous to criticize President Park Geun-hye and her family in South Korea.

French daily Le Monde has recently published an article strongly criticizing a string of severe setbacks to the freedom of press and speech in South Korea, citing the indictment of Kato Tatsuya, a former Seoul bureau chief of Japanese daily Sankei, the trial of those who raised questions in the death of President Park’s relative, and stronger surveillance of social networking services. The report gained international traction and laid bare the suppression of press freedom in South Korea to the European people.

According to NewsPro–a website that specializes in translating foreign media reports into Korean–in an online article published on Oct. 15th (local time) entitled, “Korean Media Under Surveillance,” the French daily said, “Prosecuting the Japanese correspondent to Seoul is creating new tension between South Korea and Japan, and this tension comes as the South Korean government steps up their supervision of SNS and mass media.”

The article said, “The indicted journalists, the SNS being monitored, and the freedom of press and speech find themselves languishing during these rough times in South Korea.”

In regards to the whereabouts of president Park during the seven-hour period on the day when the Sewol ferry disaster took place, the article said, “Her absence has been dealt with in a parliamentary audit in July, and has continued to stir up controversy.” It added, “Seoul bureau chief Sankei Kato based his controversial article on local Korean media reports, including the conservative Korean daily Chosun Ilbo, claiming that during those hours, President Park may have been together with a divorced former aide.”

Le Monde went on to say that the Japanese journalist was indicted through the report of a local conservative group in a country where a defamation charge can lead to a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. The French newspaper quoted South Korea’s center-leftist vernacular daily Hangyoreh, describing the indictment as possibly a politically-motivated incrimination. The article also quoted Japanese government spokesman Yoshide Shiga who said on Oct. 9th, “This indictment is very worrisome in light of press freedom and bilateral ties between Japan and South Korea.” Le Monde said that the following day, Reporters Without Border wrote that the issue of President Park’s whereabouts “falls under the category of public interests.”

U.S. Department of State Spokeswoman Jen Psaki was quoted by the article as saying that the United States administration expressed concerns over Korean law stipulating defamation charges can be brought to criminal trials.

In another example demonstrating the increasing danger of criticizing President Park and her family in South Korea, the newspaper cited the criminal trial of Kim Eo-jun and Joo Jin-woo.

Le Monde says, “the two Korean journalists are being prosecuted over defamation charges of President Park’s younger brother Park Ji-man, and are awaiting a December court verdict.” “If they committed a wrongful act, it’s just that they raised allegations that the president’s younger brother may have been involved in the 2011 death of President Park’s two relatives.”

Le Monde also voiced its worries about the South Korean prosecution, which seeks to look into what’s going on in SNS, including Kakao Talk, South Korea’s No. 1 messaging app. Le Monde said, “South Korean law authorities go as far as to monitor social networking services, after President Park said on Sept. 16th, “Disparagement of the president is going overboard.” The regulatory move prompts “numerous South Koreans to depart Kakao Talk for Telegram, a Russian messaging app known for offering better security to users.

According to Le Monde, “new subscribers to the Russian app say hello to each other, saying, “Welcome to your Cyber refuge.”

Eonomist publishes an article anti-democratic restrictions the Park administration imposed

The British weekly Economist also offers a sharp criticism about a series of authoritarian moves made by the Park administration, describing the illiberal setbacks in South Korea as “Insult to injury.”

Comments from Daum:


If someone criticizes the government, he is called a commie. But the way the government suppress the speech freedom shows they are more of commies.

하늘의 별:

National decency takes a plunge internationally!


I didn’t know who she might have been with. I saw it for the first time in this foreign news report.


We have already been reduced to a backward country. You don’t have to go any further than looking at the Sewol incident.


A foreign news media outlet wrote this kind of report, but our media is like a North Korean broadcaster.[He appears to criticize the silence of local media.] ke ke ke. That just makes me laugh. That’s why Sankei raised the question about whether South Korea is a country of human rights.


Be they president or not, roundly criticizing someone for misbehavior is the right thing to do. No exceptions should be made for Park Chung-hee, Roh Moo-hyun, Kim Dae-jung, Kim Young-sam.

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  • Chucky3176

    I’m no defender of that horrible Japanese rightwing propaganda Sankei News (lord knows they’re no beacon of press founded on morality), but this banning of their journalist leaving Korea is a terrible move on Park’s government, Korea is not in the 1970’s time period. And it also illustrates the loophole in the Korean law – the defamation law, which has often been used and abused by the current and the past Korean governments to go around the freedom of speech guarantees. It’s not a new law, and it’s been used by all the past Korean governments, so this is not about one party trying to put control on free speech.

    Koreans can see the defamation law and its everyday effect in the form of countless Korean investigative journalism where businesses are exposed on TV news reports for fraudulent business practices, yet the news reports won’t reveal the offending businesses for the audiences. That’s because of the defamation act which (even when they’re telling the truth) forbids revealing the businesses in public because that could directly harm their profit margins. Often the news reports identify these businesses as “Business A” or “Business B”, etc, it’s ridiculous. Even mass murderers are protected by the law, and their full names are not released by the police who often refer to these criminals as “Mr. Park” or “Mr.Kim”, etc.

    The defamation law is a total joke, it’s anti free speech. Consumers have a right to know, the press have the right to reveal the fraudulent businesses or identities of serious violent criminals, and reporters from a foreign propaganda publications have the right to write what they want. It’s no wonder why Park’s administration’s popularity has sunk to all time lows.

    • Guest

      “I’m no defender of that horrible Japanese rightwing propaganda Sankei News….”
      Sounds like you’re not getting the message of this article…..

      • waygookinhanguk

        Sounds like you’re not getting the message of his reply. Did you stop reading after the first few lines?

      • Guest

        seems like you missed his whole comment

    • Xman2014

      The defamation and slandering law was also used to prosecute a Korean man in 2009, who called racist names to Bonojit Hussain, an Indian research professor who was riding a bus. How come nobody questioned this law when this same law was used to lay racism charges? Calling somebody a racist name in Korea could violate the defamation and slandering law, subjecting the violator to prosecution. Anybody could use this law to claim damage that they were slandered and lay charges against someone he or she doesn’t like. This is because Korea doesn’t separate out civil suits with criminal prosecutions, like in the Anglo countries. A little something to ponder.

      • waygookinhanguk

        The defamation laws in Korea leave a lot to be desired, but I think the instance from 2009 you describe was not questioned so much because the guilt was clear. It was a dispute between two citizens and even if one was found to be lying, it would not be an exception. Reporting on something that many agree is in the public interest on the other hand, is not a clear cut instance of guilt. Even more importantly, it becomes a much bigger story for a lecturing North Korea on freedom and human rights to experience this contrasting situation. There is a public interest proviso in the South Korean constitution, we will have to wait and see whether it will help the arrested Japanese journalist.

        • Xman2014

          The Japanese journalist hasn’t been arrested. He’s prevented from leaving the country until the court date. Considering that the counter system kicked in to help and save that ethnic Chinese man falsely accused of being a North Korean spy by the NIS, I wouldn’t be surprised if that journalist will be allowed to leave the country later, but we’ll see.

    • KCdude

      Calm down, Korean boy. I may really hate Japan for neglecting the Canadian economy, but this Japanese Sankei newspaper company has legitimate reasons to express concerns about your president. And your country’s president is making things much harder for ordinary people by unintentionally spreading strange rumors.

      Be a champ and move to Canada, eh? I guarantee you that it’s 100 times better than South Korea.

      But what can I say? You South Korean guys will always elect someone who is very questionable. And the level of corruption in the government will eventually make South Korea into a third world country like Madagascar. Don’t worry.

      Move to Canada, my Korean friend.

      • Xman2014

        You hate Japan for neglecting the Canadian economy????
        This is a very strange reason for hating on a whole country. You shouldn’t hate so much, hate isn’t good for you. But seriously, what the fuck?

        • B

          It is weird. My bet is that he’s an aspie.

          • Guest

            An aspie? I think you misspelled ASPIC or meat jelly. Yummmy!

          • B

            That is disgusting. And I meant asperger.

          • Guest

            My bet is that you are new on the internet. Be careful out there. Name-calling on the internet is very rude.

          • B

            Oh, are you gonna give me cyber lesson? That’s cute, Flanders ^_^

          • KCdude

            Huh? What are you, twelve or something? Why in the would would you call someone asperger or meat jelly?

        • KCdude

          No Japanese companies ever invested in Toronto at a large scale and they brainwashed Canadians here to buy Japanese products.

          For that matter, Japanese traditional culture/cuisine outside of Japan is fine. It’s just the whole country is kinda sketchy and American-centric.

  • BarleyStalk12

    It’s gross. If South Korea — as South Koreans constantly insist and demand — is so advanced and superior, then why does it still enforce these totalitarian-esque and medieval rules related to simple journalistic criticism of the government?

    • Sillian

      as South Koreans constantly insist and demand

      The expat bubble syndrome??

      • BarleyStalk12

        “Expat bubble syndrome?” Um, no. I speak Korean. I’ve sat in restaurants for hours listening to ajussis talking about how better their country is, ala 미국보다 우리 나라 제일이다 정말 etc etc… I’ve heard it countless times. Not that everyone claims these things, but many do. And if you want to try to insist that Koreans do not have a superiority complex boiling just under the surface, then you’re being disingenuous. Even if you all do not feel superior now, there is always this underlying sense that you feel you *will* be superior …. and very soon. And you cannot wait to gloat, either. Not that I give a royal shit either way. But it is what it is.

        • 영어 교사

          Based on what you wrote in Korean, I don’t think your fluent in Korean as you think you are. Many Americans who learn a bit of Korean have this superiority complex problem (thinking that they are now totally fluent and be able to understand everything what Koreans say – when it may not be totally true). So they end up misconstruing things, get bent out of shape over innocent things that Koreans may say.

          Going back to your Korean phrase, there are some things that Korea is superior to the US, and there are some things that Korea is inferior to the US. But all in all, it’s just personal opinion of each individual peoples. Your Korean sentence is not only wrong in grammar, but also lack the context of the sentence. But having been inside the expat circle in Korea in the past, I find your assertion that Koreans have a superiority complex totally hypocritical. How many times have I heard expats whining about how “this type of thing doesn’t happen back home” (but of course they are wrong), or “Korea sucks!”, or why Koreans are like this and that, on and on, tear jerk circle.

        • Sillian

          I wasn’t there with the ajussis so I have to take the nuances as you present. But let’s think about it.

          “미국보다 우리 나라 제일이다 정말”

          “There is no place like home.”

          “I like this and that in Korea better than in the US, so I prefer to live in Korea.” (Personal preference and priority)

          “I thought the US would be so much better (in terms of this and that) but living in Korea isn’t bad after all.” (which is expressed in an exaggerated tone with a sense of relief)

          If you are claiming the ajussis were saying “Korea as a nation is overall superior and more advanced than the US as a nation” and that is an everyday occurrence, I find it highly unlikely and I’m sure it is not just me. You would have to be hard-pressed to find someone who actually thinks that way. Yes, many Koreans do believe their country is better off in certain things than some other countries, usually underdeveloped ones. On the other hand, many of them also look up to some developed nations and complain about Korea, sometimes unrealistically, which is partly shown on this very website. The concept of superiority or simply finding something better is completely relative and situational to begin with. If you are a foreigner, Koreans around you may not be so eager to talk about negative things happening in Korea, which is a well-documented tendency. Then I understand the bias you have.

    • Chucky3176

      I’ve never known any South Korean who INSIST and DEMAND is so advanced and superior. In fact it’s always the opposite, insisting that South Korea is not even a developed country. There might be a big debate on whether South Korea is a developed or still a developing country, but people insisting Korea is ADVANCED? Get out of here.

      • Bulbus

        It’s the Korean dichotomy. In one breath “we are still a poor country, we are not developed yet”. The next minute “Do you know Korea is the most high tech country in the world? We are the fastest internet. Do you know kimchi is served on breakfast tables across America? What do you mean you don’t know any Girls Generation songs!! They are most famous group in Europe!”

        It really can be that way. Which i guess does reflect the position of the country. A foot in the 1970s and another in 2020.

        • ESL Teacher

          You should stop taking what your kid students say so seriously.

          • Bulbus

            I don’t teach kids. I hear this kind of stuff from 20-25 year olds mostly, but also older people. I’m sorry if the truth hurts your feelings. I think you will be ok.

          • Xman2014

            hmmm… so you heard they claiming kimchi is served on breakfast tables across America? really? holy fuck that’s some some fucked up Korean thinking there. That’s being an advanced country?

      • Small twon

        Unfortunately a few Koreans do ..mostly from spoiled man(woman?) child from wealthy family have some weird ideas and most expat from western country know two types of Korean.
        A:English speaking Koreans who studied overseas (mostly from upper middle class)
        B : teenagers(student)
        They don’t socialize with blue collar Korean in Korea.(Ironically they are the back bone of this country.)
        so sometimes their view is…limited in Korea.

    • ESL Teacher

      Being an advanced country has nothing to do with violations of freedom of speech. And it goes both ways. I keep hearing Americans claim we are the most advanced number one free-est country in the world. But American level of democracy isn’t perfect either – remember the phoney war on Iraq that most Americans bought into with line, hook and bait, and the free speech violations against Edward Snowden? Or what about the illegal tapings on the private citizens? As far as I’m concerned US is an advanced country, yet we still have serious problem with freedom of speech issues too.

      • guest

        You have some pretty terrible English going there mate. I hope you aren’t really an “ESL teacher’.

        • Xman2014

          Most ESL teachers don’t even know proper grammar nor correct spelling. The only thing that’s required of an ESL teacher to teach in Asia is the color of their skin (white), and having a four year university degree in anything. Knowing proper English isn’t even required to teach in Asia. Most of them would have a tough time finding a job at the local supermarket. You expect too much.

          • Boris

            And either you expect too little or you are just prejudiced or racist. I know plenty who have done a year as an ESL teacher, akin to a gap year from uni, and then gone on to have good careers back home. I also know a few who just thought it an extension of their college days – basically party, drink, pick up chicks and with the bonus of getting paid. You get the serious types who really want to do their jobs well and then the ones who just don’t really care. I guess yours were the latter, and/or you socialised with the latter.

            On the white skin thing, I’ve seen people from non-English speaking nations hired as ESL teachers, both in Korea and in China, because they looked foreign and were white. I’ve also seen non-whites hired. I know 2 black women from Cameroon hired as ESL teachers, Canadians, British and Americans of coloured backgrounds hired as ESL teachers. I have found it is more difficult for Asian looking people to get hired as ESL teachers (in China, Japan and Korea) though, as they don’t look foreign.

          • guest

            That may be true, but knowing idiomatic phrases isn’t really a marker of education and “line, hook and bait” stinks to high heaven of a non-native speaker. Also the misuse and omission of articles is usually the biggest tip off. Two for two with “ESL Teacher”.
            You seem bitter about ESL teachers in Asia. Don’t worry about it buddy. I’m sure you are going to do well in life. It’s not necessary to get your feelings hurt by some 23 year old Canadians who by the luck of birth have an in demand skill. I’m positive that things will start going your way soon!

        • Boris

          I doubt he/she is. You can never tell with people online anyway.

    • 금정산

      I’ve always thought that Korean’s boast about technology because of the nation’s history of poverty; and their ability to suddenly become a technologically developed country is a great sense of national pride.

      Korean’s know how bad their government is and I have never heard anyone mention that the country is superior in political aspects. In fact, Koreans are very critical of their government. But this obviously something difficult to articulate in English – whereas it is easier to talk about “being the only divided country” etc.

  • Xman2014

    Another blow to Park government’s credibility, involving the National Security Agency agents framing an ethnic Chinese man claiming North Korean refugee status in South Korea.

    SEOUL, South Korea — In the latest blow to the image of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, a court on Tuesday convicted two of its counterintelligence officials of fabricating Chinese government documents to build a spy case against a refugee from North Korea.

    A 48-year-old agent, who was identified only by his family name, Kim, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. A 54-year-old former head of the spy agency’s counterintelligence investigations was sentenced to one and a half years.

    They were accused of faking a set of immigration documents, ostensibly issued by the Chinese government, to build a spy case against Yu Woo-sung, an ethnic Chinese from North Korea who defected to South Korea in 2004.

    The agents “seriously obstructed the function of the criminal justice of the country,” Kim Woo-soo, a judge at the Seoul Central District Court, said in his verdict on Tuesday. “They betrayed the trust the people placed in the National Intelligence Service when it gave it both power and responsibility.”

    When he arrived in South Korea, Mr. Yu told officials here that he was a North Korean so that he could qualify for the South Korean citizenship and resettlement aid granted to defecting North Koreans. In truth, Mr. Yu, now 33, was a fourth-generation ethnic Chinese in the North and had carried a Chinese passport with the Chinese name of Liu Jiagang. Yu Woo-sung was the Korean name he adopted in the South.

    The National Intelligence Service caught up with him early last year, when it accused him of spying for North Korea.

    It built its case largely on confessions it said Mr. Yu’s sister from North Korea, Liu Jiali, had made after she entered South Korea in 2012, also pretending to be a North Korean refugee. The intelligence agency said Mr. Yu had made secret trips to North Korea after his arrival in the South and had been recruited as a spy by the North’s Department of State Security.

    The tables turned against the agency when Mr. Yu’s sister later told a news conference organized by human rights lawyers in Seoul that she had been coerced to make false accusations against her brother while being held for 179 days in the Joint Interrogation Center south of Seoul, in near isolation and without legal representation.

    In August last year, a court in Seoul threw out a spy charge against Mr. Yu, rejecting his sister’s confessions as evidence because it said she was never apprised of her right to remain silent. It also called her statements inconsistent and implausible. It gave Mr. Yu a suspended sentence for lying about his nationality.

    The spy agency appealed and presented the appeals court with what it called official Chinese records on Mr. Yu’s border crossings into North Korea. In February, however, the Chinese Embassy in Seoul told the court that the Chinese records the spy agency had submitted were “faked.”

    Opposition parties and civic groups have accused the agency of reviving old practices from the era of military rule, using coercion and fabricated evidence to concoct spy cases to the benefit of those in power. President Park Geun-hye apologized over the scandal in April and later replaced her intelligence chief.

    Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story

    Continue reading the main story

    The intelligence service has been dogged by a series of scandals. Last month, Won Sei-hoon, its former director, was convicted of meddling in domestic politics when he ran a team of agents who posted numerous online comments criticizing Ms. Park’s domestic rivals, including opposition candidates, ahead of her election in late 2012.

    Mr. Yu’s case also brought attention to the agency’s Joint Interrogation Center. In 2010, South Korea changed its laws to allow the center to keep and question fresh arrivals from the North for as long as six months, twice the previous limit. The measure was taken amid fear that North Korea was planting spies among migrants bound for the South.

    “The problem with the Joint Interrogation Center is that there is no independent monitoring and control,” Mr. Yu’s lawyer, Kim Yong-min, said in a recent interview. “For refugees who have no relatives in the South, there is no way of knowing whether they are held there. It’s a facility where there is a high probability of human rights abuse and people can easily be framed as spies.”

    Little has been known about what happens inside the center, which is surrounded by high walls topped with barbed wire. Some former inmates have recently told human rights researchers and opposition lawmakers that they were subjected to abusive language, violence and threats of deportation. In a rare news release in 2011, the agency said a North Korean had committed suicide after confessing to being on a spy mission.

    After Ms. Park’s apology, the spy agency changed the center’s name to the Center for Protection of North Korean Refugees and vowed to keep its practices there transparent by permitting visits by lawyers and outside monitors.NEXT IN ASIA PACIFIC

  • FYIADragoon

    The way the current administration is going about its censorship, I feel almost vindicated in how I used to judge her in light of her father’s legacy.

  • JEng

    let’s all jump to this rag’s defense so that when it’s Japan’s Monarchy in the spotlight, they can’t object or censor

  • BostonBiBimBap

    I think Japan is far more dangerous under Abe leadership than Korea…………

  • Korean1World1

    She is President of South Korea………

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