South Korean parliamentary committee passes 'fake news' law despite objections

South Korean parliamentary committee passes 'fake news' law despite objections
South Korean main opposition lawmakers, including People Power Party chief Lee Jun-Seok (C), staged a protest against a new media bill Thursday. Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

Aug. 19 (UPI) -- A South Korean parliamentary committee passed a revision to a media law that could heavily penalize news organizations.

The bill's opponents compared the move to the suppression of press freedoms in North Korea.


Seoul's parliamentary Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee, led by ruling Democratic Party lawmaker Do Jong-hwan, passed the revision to the Act of Press Arbitration on Thursday.

More than 50 lawmakers of the main opposition People Power Party staged a protest urging the bill's abolition, Kyunghyang Shinmun reported.

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Rep. Lee Dal-gon of the main opposition said that the revision, which allows plaintiffs to sue for five times the actual damages, including psychological grief, is a crude redrafting of the law.

The committee originally considered allowing plaintiffs to sue for only three times the actual damages under the revision, Lee said.

The bill, known as the "fake news" law, was drafted after the current South Korean administration raised concerns about misinformation in news articles that could harm the reputation of citizens, including public figures.

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Rep. Choi Hyung-doo of the People Power Party said that if the bill proceeds and passes at the National Assembly, in which the governing party holds a majority, South Korea's World Media Freedom ranking could drop to 80 out of 180 countries, from its current 42nd position.


Ruling party lawmakers have been discussing the bill without input from the main opposition, who have declined to take part in the drafting of the revision, according to reports.

Local journalist organizations condemned committee's approval of the revision Thursday.

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The Kwanhun Club, the Journalists Association of Korea and other groups said in a joint statement that the amendment leaves room for "unclear, arbitrary interpretations" of what constitutes inaccurate reporting or misrepresentation of public figures.

The revision "paves the way for easy control over the media," journalists said, according to the Segye Ilbo.

Outside Korea, the World Association of News Publishers called the law the "kind of regulation, promoted by some of the world's most authoritarian regime," according to the Korea Herald.

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