Journalist jailed for report on company’s financial status
SOUTH KOREA–In mid-December the South Korean government jailed a Korean-American journalist for criminal slander. He was released from jail in early December, although criminal charges are still pending.
Authorities arrested reporter Richard Choi after he alleged in a story broadcast on the privately-owned Radio Korea in Los Angeles that Hankuk Ilbo, a Korean newspaper, was in financial trouble and faced a possible takeover by the Hyundai Corporation.
Hankuk Ilbo, which owns a rival radio station in Los Angeles, filed a complaint with the Korean government alleging that Choi violated a Korean law prohibiting reporting rumors that might threaten a company’s economic stability.
“We are in support of freedom of the press. We cannot live without it for a single day; we know that,” Lee Sang Seok, Hankuk Ilbo’s foreign news editor told The Washington Post. “But Mr. Choi’s report comes as a severe threat to the survival of our company at a very dangerous time.”
Lee Sang-kyu, director-general for the foreign press at the Information Ministry, told the Associated Press that the affair was a “private legal matter in which the government has no part, but [he hoped] that the dispute would be resolved amicably.”
Under Korean law, Choi cannot be released from custody unless the charges against him are dropped. If convicted, he may be sentenced to up to five years in prison.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press wrote a letter of protest to the South Korean President Kim Young-sam, arguing that “criminal sanctions for expressing an opinion, no matter how controversial, simply have no place in any society that considers itself a democracy.” (South Korea v. Choi; Media Counsel: Angela Oh, Los Angeles)