Truth Is No Defense Against Slander Charges
The truth is no defense when it comes to defending oneself against charges of slander or libel in Korea. Damage, not truth, is the basis by which slander/defamation is determined here.
According to Wikipedia: "Korea is interesting as truth is not important with defamation; any words harming another can be considered illegal and may be punishable with fines and imprisonment. “Defamation” is covered under the 'Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Data Protection, etc.' (internet and email related laws) – Park, 2005 CHAPTER IX Article 61 (Penal Provisions) This may show defamation varies significantly from North American laws and in general by country and by case.
(1) Any person who has defamed any other person by alleging openly facts through information and communications networks [anyone stating false comments by internet and email] with the purpose of slandering him shall be subject to imprisonment with or without prison labor for not more than 3 years or by a fine not exceeding 20 million won.
(2) Any person who has defamed any other person by alleging openly false facts via information and communications networks [anyone stating true comments on the internet and email] with the purpose of slandering him/her shall be subject to imprisonment with prison labor for not more than 7 years or the suspension of disqualification for not more than 10 years, or by a fine not exceeding 50 million won [approximately US$50,000 plus since this is only criminal law, in Korea you can also sue for more damages with civil actions].
As of June 2010, cases were heard before Korean courts and individuals were fined W2,000,000 ($2,000) for true facts (“she admitted she was guilty”) identified in email sent to foreign lawyers [considered privileged and confidential in Canada] managing a related case in Canada. True statements about a Korean lady were sent to answer questions from a Canadian lawyer and these statements were decided by Korean court to be punishable with a $2,000 fine. International “comity” procedure or “intent” appear not important in Korea."
The following situations illustrate how easily one can run afoul of Korea's defamation rules.
Example 1: An longtime foreign resident, who wrote a satirical column in which he mentioned one of the chaebols, found himself in legal hot water – both civil and criminal.
Example 2: The teenage son of a foreign resident died in a public facility. When the boy’s mother, convinced that her child need not have died and frustrated in her search for information, tried to put a public spotlight on the case, found herself in jeopardy of violating Korea’s defamation laws.
That the truth is no defense in defamation actions applies equally to Korean citizens.
Example 3: A Korean blogger was arrested for 'spreading false rumours' for reportedly having predicted elements of the economic crisis of 2009 and for criticising the government's economic policies. He was later acquitted.
Both citizens and foreign residents may be found guilty of libel or slander even if what is exposed to the public is unequivocally true.
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Last Updated on 2011-02-15
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