Korean Law Demystified!

Being Liable for Libel/Slander/Insult (in Korea)


They say slander is spoken, while libel is written. Under Korean law, they’re just both defamation (which is a crime). And we also have a crime called “Insult” (모욕) which is basically unjustified name-calling (in public). In Korea, you can simultaneously face criminal and civil liability for unjustifiably defaming or insulting another person. Below are a few civil cases recently reported.

1) Recent Libel Case (Appellate)

The Seoul High Court ordered social commentator Byun Hee-jae to pay Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung 4 mil won. Via Twitter, Byun described Lee as being submissive/sympathetic to North Korea, etc. There were a total of 13 such tweets in 2013 and 2014.

2) Recent Slander Case 

The Busan District Court ordered an ex-professor (at Pusan National University) to pay former President Roh Moo-hyun’s family 25 mil won. Last year, the professor told students that the late former President Roh was elected via a rigged election. He also asked his students to write a paper on how one would prove such a claim. FYI: In Korea, you can even defame a dead person.

3) Recent Insult Case (Appellate)

The Seoul High Court ordered 2 (food company) executives to jointly pay actor Bae Yong-joon 30 mil won for having publicly insulted him using banners and pickets (outside a courthouse). The 2 defendants were in a dispute with a company in which Bae used to be a large shareholder. Even though Bae had nothing to do with the company at the time, the 2 defendants publicly insulted him using terms like “money-crazed Bae Yong-joon.”

I sometimes listen to dharma talks by Gil Fronsdal. He once said we can learn a lot about ourselves simply by looking at the true intention (behind what we say). We could ponder the following:

1) Is what I say (really) true?

2) Do I make an effort to say it in a kind/friendly manner?

3) Is what I say useful (to the situation)?

4) Does it promote harmony/concord?

Thanks for reading!

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