South Korea Falls in Press Freedom Rankings

The fall comes in Yoon Suk-yeol's first year of presidency.

South Korea Falls in Press Freedom Rankings

Credit: Reporters Without Borders.

In this year’s World Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders (RSF), South Korea fell three places to rank 47th in the world, down four spots from the previous year after the first year of Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열’s presidency. South Korea maintained its second-place position in Asia, behind Taiwan (35th place overall) and ahead of Japan (68th place overall.)

In the five years of Moon Jae-in 문재인’s presidency, South Korea floated between 41st and 43rd place, and was at one point ranked first among Asian countries for three years in a row.

RSF praised South Korea for its “rich media environment” with more than 400 television stations and 600 daily newspapers, “relatively independent” editorial environment, and “generally satisfactory conditions” for journalists’ work environment. On the other hand, the RSF report noted that South Korea’s TV stations were vulnerable to government pressure, as the government is able to influence the appointment of their executives. (See previous coverage, “Conservatives Again Attack MBC.”)

Corporations and the law also encroach upon South Korea’s press freedom. The RSF report said more than 60% of South Korean journalists felt that advertising sponsors - generally large corporations - were threats to the freedom of the press. Corporate ownership of media outlets also poses a conflict of interest when the parent corporation’s main business is not media, as is the case with SBS News, which is owned by Taeyeong Construction Co. 태영건설사.

Meanwhile, lawsuits against the media are steadily increasing. As of 2018, 27.6% of journalists reported having been sued; 78.3% of the lawsuits were over allegations of defamation. In nearly one third, or 29%, of the cases, the plaintiff was a government official.

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