Certainly, this is reinforced by recent legislative efforts currently under discussion in the parliament. The ruling Grand National Party has been the subject of public resistance more recently, perhaps owing to the global economic slowdown which has caused widespread discontent throughout the world. In response, and with elections -- at that time -- approaching, the South Korean government considered the passage of legislation that would both place limitations and legal liabilities on those assembling for protest and would place parameters on the consequences for what may be identified as internet-based libel.
To the second edict, the condition is suggested as a means to "increasing penalties for online defamation and insult. Senior policy coordinator Chang Yoon-seok submitted this bill, which will allow prosecutors to press charges for 'cyber defamation' and 'online libel'. (AHRC, 1) Such legislation does distinctly set South Korea apart from the principles of Western Democracy, even if we may argue that in so many other regards there is a close resonance between the southern part of the peninsula and the western world. Particularly, both the issues of assembly and online speech addressed here are considered constitutional rights in such nations as the United States. So too are they regarded this way by the South Koreans. However, by contrast to the United States and other constitutional democracies which consider libel an issue of civil dispute, this legislation imposed criminal penalties for the same type of activity.
Accordingly, "the proposed revisions include the assessment of up to nine years imprisonment or 50 million won in fines for spreading information defamatory to others through the internet, regardless of whether it is fact or falsehood." (AHRC, 1) Naturally, this last clause is also a considerable distinction, dictating a problematic degree of subjectivity entitled to governance and law enforcement where this 'crime' is alleged. Additionally, this demonstrates that the unilateral relationship maintained with the United States has not been, in and of itself, sufficient to protect the constitutional rights of all citizens. The ultimate outcome, therefore, is a restrictive policy that entitles the government to levy real and harsh limitations on the freedom of individuals to criticize state, policy or leadership. Indeed, such legislation would ultimately serve to intimidate voters, activists, journalists and everyday citizens from honestly and openly engaging in a political process. Such legislation is a violation of human rights which quite distinctly bears a chilling effect on the democratic freedoms and impulses of a nation that is relatively new to both of these areas.
In these instances, we can see that South Korea's contention with issues of human rights centers largely on its economic ambitions, but also touches on motives relating to national security. Owing to the condition between itself and North Korea, as well as the latter's relationship to the United States, South Korea's government has found ways to justify an increase in authoritarian proclivities. With respect to the internet, a recent evaluation of the new legislation has recently been produced by the South Korean government agency, the National Assembly Research Service (NARS). The "group of 228 legal experts, journalists and law scholars issued a press release on November 11, 2008 likening the proposed revision to a national security law for cyberspace. They also denounced it as a blatant attempt to silence political and social criticism via South Korea's vibrant online citizen media and a severe restriction of the freedom of expression." (AHRC, 1) This indicates both a divide within the government over such issues and a tendency on the part of the public to engage its expectant freedoms. Indeed, as of a 2006 article from The New York Times, South Korea was identified as the nation most densely populated with internet users in the world. These two points stand in contrast to one another, reflecting the contradiction in South Korea's general orientation toward the world, its region and its own people.
South Korea's regionalism is largely its most afflicted of areas of concern. The persistent state of conflict and hostility with North Korea is underscored by their divergent sets of allies and by their divergent political orientations. Most significant amongst allies, China has long served as North Korea's patron in the way that the U.S. has effectively served South Korean interests. Therefore, in a region where the primary powers are North and South Korea, China and Japan -- the latter of which has been previously identified in this discussion as having engaged in a brutal occupation of the peninsula during WWII -- South Korea truly has had no closely identifiable ally.
North Korea, a nation both deeply guilty of massive human rights violations and with a nuclear power which it has developed against the will of the world community, represents a significant problem to the region and to South Korea. To the point, in a fairly bold move, South Korea informally noted that it would agree to a United Nations resolution condemning the North for its abuses of human rights in 2008. (Achin, 1) Given their history of conflict and the sensitive state of precarious proximity of the two nations, this is a rare effort on the part of South Korea to intervene in a state where such is needed but scarce. The extent of North Korea's record on human rights abuses is unclear. As reported by Amnesty International, "information and access to the country remain tightly restricted. Despite repeated requests, the government continues to deny access to the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in North Korea and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food. It also denies Amnesty International and other independent human rights monitors." (Amnesty International1, 1) The presidency of Kim Jong Il, an eccentric and often violently dictatorial 'president for life,' has pursued a deeply isolationist policy approach, resisting oversight and attention from the international community where democracy and human rights are concerned. Therefore, it is difficult to assess the extent of its abused, but given the shared heritage, ancestry and even familial ties across the peninsular border, the South Koreans have come to view North Korean human rights offenses as being of particular concern to the whole of the region.
Indeed, the Achin (2008) article denotes that the damage may be catastrophically widespread. Accordingly, "a group of North Korean defectors to the South held a traditional funeral for two million of their former countrymen they say have died of starvation and persecution under the rule of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il." (Achin, 1) A horrific number to be sure, its accuracy is impossible to verify. That aside, we do know with great certainty that North Korea has demonstrated itself to be amongst the worst offenders in the world to the set of standards upon which the global community has collectively arrived. The general consensus is held by most human rights watchgroups and democratic nations engaged on the international level that the northern part of the peninsula is a place which has for too long been plunged into a nightmarish scenario of oppression and authoritarianism. To this end, "Institute for National Security Strategy Chief Hong Kwan Hee pointed out that, 'North Korea has been being classified as 'the most oppressive regime,' by international human rights organizations' research, and Kim Jong Il is also named as the worst dictator. With the exception of war or domestic warfare, we can hardly find a situation as tragic as North Korea in the world.'" (Yang, 1) This is especially so because, at present, one of the greatest obstacles to helping the publics in North Korea is the international community's willful disconnection from the 'rogue state.' This is a disconnection that begins with its frigid relationship to South Korea. Based primarily on the issue of North Korea's alleged ambitions to create nuclear weaponry against the desires and regulations of the international community, the global community has moved increasingly toward sanctions and isolation as a way of punishing the nation.
Unfortunately, this also tends to take parties away from the negotiating table, allowing North Korea to persist in governing its people according to its own wishes. This process has intensified in recent years, particularly during the War on Terror. In 2002, the United States had claimed that "North Korea is enriching uranium in violation of agreements." (Amnesty International1, 1) This perception and the pursuit of action in response thereto have both have far-reaching effects for the state of affairs in South Korea, which as a matter of policy must stand firm with its ally in the United States. Unfortunately, according to most accounts, this is a matter which both detracts from the world community's focus on the immediate concerns of human rights and further removes North Korea from the process of critical engagement.
As a report from this year cites, "the North Korean human rights issue has not been downgraded on the priority list of the U.S. By the nuclear issue but is being utilized as a tool for negotiation or pressure on North Korea. Therefore, practical efforts…