Korean Law Demystified!

What Constitutes Criminal Insult (in South Korea)?

A: Among other things, the audience must be able to surmise to whom the insult is being directed at.

A couple of months ago, the Seoul Southern District Court (appellate division) found guilty a 59 year-old man for the crime of insult after he badmouthed a former employee online. (The court slapped a criminal fine of  KRW 300,000 via deferred sentence. FYI: Deferred sentence differs from probation in that even the guilty decision/verdict can later be thrown out with good behavior. As if he/she was found not guilty to begin with.)

The man had made online comments referring to a “Manager Jung” saying he knew “she was immature, but she was just clowning around” + “she’s the determined princess-type accustomed to taking things only.”

What’s interesting is that the man had actually been found not guilty by the lower court. The prosecution appealed, and the appellate court overturned that lower court decision.  (In Korea, not guilty decisions/verdicts can be appealed.)

Why. The appellate court reasoned that where you make the online comment/insult matters. Such comments/insults posted via general (online) forums are not criminal in the sense that it’s hard for the (general) audience to know who this “Manager Jung” actually is. But when you make such comments/insults on KakaoStory, it’s different. Only people with access to your mobile number can access your KakaoStory page. And these people are likely to know/surmise who this “Manager Jung” is.

To learn more about the crime of insult in Korea, click here.


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