The Illusion of Democracy in South Korea

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When compared to its northern brethren, South Korea seems to be the epitome of democracy. However, simply being better than a dictatorship does not mean South Korea is without its freedom flaws. Under the Lee Myung Bak adminstration many groups have protested that democratic rights, particularly freedom of speech have been curtailed. When the economy first nose dived, the Korean blogger Minerva was arrested for criticizing government fiscal policy. Most recently, writers are protesting because under new legislature, artists who are critical of the government receive reduced subsidies from the government.  The Korea Times reports in “Writers to Protest for Freedom of Speech” the actions organized writers are taking to protest this move.

When compared to its northern brethren, South Korea seems to be the epitome of democracy. However, simply being better than a dictatorship does not mean South Korea is without its freedom flaws. Under the Lee Myung Bak adminstration many groups have protested that democratic rights, particularly freedom of speech have been curtailed. When the economy first nose dived, the Korean blogger Minerva was arrested for criticizing government fiscal policy. Most recently, writers are protesting because under new legislature, artists who are critical of the government receive reduced subsidies from the government.  The Korea Times reports in “Writers to Protest for Freedom of Speech” the actions organized writers are taking to protest this move.

I’m a little torn on this. On one hand, the government doesn’t have to subsidize the arts at all…in less of course they want them to seriously flourish without the more dire starving artist syndromes. On the other hand, discriminatory funding in this manner does seem to be rather anti-democratic particularly because the rationale for it is that these groups have engaged in “illegal protests.” Illegal in Korea doesn’t mean violent, looting, or disruptive, it simply means they were unable to get a government permit for peaceful protests. And of course, the government rarely provides such permits for groups wanting to protest government policy vocally. 

It’s frustrating. I wish I could discuss politics with my Korean co-workers because I would love to see opinions on the issues that aren’t from my fellow expats but none of them have the English skills to have an intensive discourse about anything other than the weather or what I did this weekend.



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