South Korea: Corruption & Self-Censorship
Press freedom in South Korea is slipping and public perception of corruption is rising.
- Among the 35 OECD developed economies, just six countries rank worse than South Korea in TI’s 2016 Corruption Perception Index.
- South Korea dropped 10 places between 2015 and 2016 in the global rankings on media freedom.
- South Korea has laws that allow imprisonment for defamatory or pro-North Korean reporting.
1. South Korea celebrated its first female leader when Park Geun-hye became President in February 2013, but she was removed from office in March 2017 for corruption.
2. While South Korea ranks in the upper-third of Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perception Index, it does not stack up well with its peer group.
3. Among the 35 OECD developed economies, just six countries rank worse than South Korea: Mexico, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Hungary and Slovakia. Most of them are economically less advanced than South Korea.
4. Moreover, 50% of South Koreans polled said corruption had increased recently – an unsurprising sentiment amid the far-reaching presidential scandal.
5. A key factor in this perception of corruption is the dominant role of the chaebols — the large, often family-owned and family-run industrial conglomerates in South Korea.
6. It is not by accident that the country’s largest industrial group, Samsung, found itself at the center of the corruption charges that led to the ouster of President Park.
7. The chaebols’ dominance over the South Korean economy – and the high level of business concentration that this represents – create a dangerous chokehold over the economy and politics.
8. Moreover, as the unfolding of the recent corruption scandal generated a lot of government backlash to reporting on it, South Korea dropped 10 places between 2015 and 2016 in the global rankings on media freedom. It regained some standing in 2017, as the media covered the scandals to its conclusion despite the pressure.
9. South Korea has long struggled with press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders, which ranked it 63rd in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index.
10. One reason is that the country has laws on the books that allow imprisonment for defamatory or North Korea-friendly reporting. Both often prompt self-censorship among journalists.
Sources: The Globalist Research Center, Transparency International, Reporters Without Borders and New York Times