Three years ago this month, I ran afoul of South Korea's antiquated libel laws. My ex-employer had neglected to pay me my last month's wages on top of other fees, which is unfortunately a common practice in Korea. I was one of the few people who wouldn't take it lying down and went to the Labor Board to file a complaint. Most expats don't do this because they don't understand the procedures or their rights. So I posted on my blog how we did it. The problem was that I had the employer's name on my site. I ended up having to be locked in a room at the police station, interrogated like a terrorist with a translator who could barely speak English (they wouldn't let me bring my own translator). I was found partially guilty, not fully guilty. My web site wasn't famous enough. But it did take a bite out of my winnings from my ex-employer in the end.
During the ordeal, I learned that South Korea is one of the last remaining democracies with criminal libel still on the books--a holdover from the dictatorship that ended in the '80s. It's now used by the corrupt to prosecute any and all whistleblowers or anyone who states the truth.
I found it a sad irony that my employer stealing money from me was just a civil case. But saying that my employer stole money from me was a crime.
The focus on the story should not only be on Samsung but on Korea's backward criminal libel laws. With South Korea trying to get acceptance as a global player on the stage of democratic nations, these types of laws need to be stricken from the books.
For a very disturbing case regarding the libel laws, google the case of Stephanie White and the death of her son Mike, and how she can go to jail if she even mentions the notion that her son was murdered.
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