Korean Law Demystified!

What is the Punishment for Defaming a Presidential Candidate in South Korea?

Back in December of 2016, a Korean man residing in Brazil falsely accused Presidential candidate Moon Jae-in of being a commie. Via YouTube, the man claimed: Mr. Moon was intent on legalizing communism + Mr. Moon’s father had served in the North Korean military, etc. That video had about 320,000 views.


PUBLIC OFFICIAL ELECTION ACT (공직선거법)

Article 250 (Publication of False Information)         

(2) Any person who publishes, or makes another person publish, any false statements on a candidate, his/her spouse, lineal ascendants or descendants, or siblings, so as to be unfavorable to the candidate through a speech, broadcast, newspaper, communication, magazine, poster, propaganda document, or other means, with the intention of stopping the candidate from being elected, or persons who possess a propaganda document in which a false statement is entered with the intention of distributing it, shall be punished by imprisonment with prison labor for not more than 7 years or by a fine of not less than 5 million won nor more than 30 million won.


The Seoul Central District Court recently found the man guilty of the above crime and sentenced him to 8 months in prison (2 years probation). FYI, probation means no actual jail time.

Although Mr. Moon was not technically a candidate at the time, the court felt Article 250 should apply given the impending impeachment proceedings (of Park Geun-hye). For all intents and purposes, Mr. Moon was (already) a Presidential candidate.

For this crime, it is not necessary for the perpetrator to have been definitively aware of his/her statement’s falsity. Reckless disregard for the truth is enough. For this crime, intent to derail a candidate’s campaign is also a requirement, btw.


Food for Thought

  1. Korean law normally applies (even) to Koreans outside Korea. This includes permanent residents abroad.
  2. Would this man have been found guilty and sentenced to prison had Mr. Moon not been elected President?

Thanks for reading!

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