CPJ Protests Arrest of South Korean Journalist1 June 1998

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President Kim Dae Jung
The Blue House
#1 Sejong-no, Chongno-gu
Seoul, Republic of Korea
Join CPJ in protesting this arrest. Send a fax to President Kim Dae Jung at: 011-822-770-0253

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply alarmed by the arrest of Son Chung Mu¸ the publisher of Inside the World magazine, on charges of criminal defamation growing out of last year's presidential campaign.

Son was arrested by agents of the Seoul Public Prosecutor's office early on the morning of June 1 at his home in Seoul, according to family members. Prosecutors have charged Son with criminal defamation and of having received money from former KCIA chief Kwon Young Hae to slander then-presidential candidate Kim Dae Jung during the 1997 campaign. Son was also charged with related "crimes against reputation" in February by the public prosecutor's office but was not arrested at that time.

The charges stem from a series of complaints brought by the National Congress for a New Politics (NCNP), your excellency's political party, in the aftermath of your victory in the presidential election of December 1997. In addition to the charges against Son, similar cases have been filed against two other journalists, Chon Bong Jae, publisher of World Korea magazine; and Ham Yun Shik, publisher of One Way magazine.

As a non-partisan organization that defends press freedom around the world, CPJ believes strongly that no journalist should be jailed as a result of what he or she writes. Libel is not considered a criminal offense in most democratic countries and its use has a chilling effect on press freedom. CPJ believes that sufficient remedies exist in civil law to redress legitimate claims of libel or defamation.

Therefore, we strongly urge your excellency to examine closely the matter of Son Chung Mu and to consider releasing him at the earliest possible time. Given your impending visit to the United States this week, a gesture of leniency in the case of Son would be timely and well-received internationally.

We further urge your excellency to put in motion reforms of South Korea's existing harsh criminal defamation laws to ensure that journalists are protected from imprisonment in the future. Given the admirable strides South Korea has made in the last decade toward becoming a vibrant democracy, this is a good time to consider removing criminal defamation from the legal code.

We appreciate your attention and await your response.

 

Yours sincerely,

William A. Orme, Jr.

Executive Director