Archive for the ‘libel’ Category

Serious issues spoiled by incoherent ranting style

July 17, 2012

Child Abuse camp as advertised on the Democratic United Party blog and protected by corrupt police soon to be exposed

By [name redacted] and translated by Surprisesaplenty

My ‘translated by’ claim above is snarky, but I am starting from the man’s Facebook claims and following other links.  His writing is … challenging.

A sample from various locations (1,2) on Facebook (these are from large groups on Facebook so I don’t think they are private utterances.  The latter link is to “Every Expat inKorea” which sounds like it should be considered a public space):

“Korean Conman with no degree is touted as professor on the Korean Democratic United party blog, that also names his business that prior to that time had been in the papers (Korean Herald) for human smuggling US citizens with fake visas to work for free in his illegal unlicensed English camps the Jeju City Office of Education yet again has filed more changes against this week.

The full truth is not in the 1000s of newspaper report about this illegal business 제주국제영어마을 – that it includes pedophile activity and stupid foreigners who profit from job ads saying they get bonus money for working their kids, which should have been a know brainier that that is against the law.”

A “know brainier” indeed.  These 100+ words  in two sentences were separated in the ellipses by a citation.  Oh, alright, here it is: As seen On KBS News and 제주가 보인다 2012.2.1.

Still, [redacted] is passionate about his claims; so much so that I had to dig in and try to understand them.

Okay, I’ve looked into the claims and they are too hot – criminally hot – for me!

At 3 Wise Monkeys is a good description of the problem.  Giving real names and identifying businesses , even if the claims made are true, is considered libel.

The Korea Herald has reported as much as it dares here.  Dare I say it, the reporting is as well done as it could be without risking exposure to libel.

A second problem with discussing [redacted]‘s problems are their variety.  3WM and the Herald discuss (1)immigration and contractual issues, but [redacted] also claims (2) sexual abuse of the students, corruption among the (3) police (The Herald article looks at this) and (4) a political party and (5) death threats he has received*.  They might all be true but if too many claims are stacked like this, why not add one more: “(6)And he cancelled Christmas!”

I feel there is something wrong here and that [redacted] has been mistreated, possibly criminally, but I am honestly afraid to write further.  Korea’s libel laws are clear.

This is a serious issue and I feel for [redacted] but at the same time I must retreat into snark again and say that if his writing is a good example of his English communication skills, I would not much want to hire him either.

* Search for information from 3WM… You can find this claim if you wish.


Sorta Off-topic: Libel reform efforts in the UK

July 11, 2012

I have discussed libel issues in Korea and elsewhere, but chiefly in relation to Korea. The local problems with libel affect me as a blogger, but the UK is also infamous for its legal system.

Recently, Nature magazine faced libel charges and eventually defended itself successfully.

Libel Win Reveals Need For Reform:

El Naschie, a theoretical physicist and former editor-in-chief of the journal Chaos, Solitons and Fractals (CSF), sued Nature’s publisher, Nature Publishing Group (NPG), and its news reporter Quirin Schiermeier over the 2008 article ‘Self-publishing editor set to retire’ (see Nature 456, 432; 2008). The story reported that El Naschie was the author of a large number of papers in his journal, and that some physicists questioned whether the work had been properly peer reviewed. It also noted that certain scientists considered some of El Naschie’s papers to be of poor quality.

Nature did not deny that the article was defamatory, but claimed three defences: that the piece was true (the ‘justification’ defence), that it was an ‘honest comment’ on the matter, and that its publication was ‘responsible journalism’ in the public interest — the Reynolds defence.

Nature claimed three defences, but the first would not work in Korea: Truth is not a valid defence here.

The Man personally sued, Quirin Schmierirmeir, concluded with this point:

The bigger picture, I believe, is that this case demonstrates once again how English libel law can stifle justified discourse, including open scientific discussion. The burden of proof falls too heavily on the defendant to prove what they said was true, not on the accuser to show that it is false. The law is therefore more likely to stifle free speech and suppress legitimate criticism than defend the interests of science or society at large. As a matter of fact, England’s antiquated libel law has become a liability for the country and, in the age of online journalism, a nuisance to the world. If my experience helps to get it changed, it will perhaps have been worth every second.

I have discussed the UK’s libels in the past, in these posts (1, 2)

Government blacklist of Korean universities

September 7, 2011

The news was apparently on Monday: now the English news is full of it.

I first learned of the blacklist from Asiaone:

The naming and shaming of 43 poorly managed universities by the Education Ministry on Monday has spawned confusion and concern among universities, with some decrying the label or expressing worries about next year’s freshmen recruitment.

But a closer look and deliberate search finds the news everywhere.


 Officials have said that an equal provision of funds to all schools would be a waste of taxpayer money and could end up as a lifeline for uncompetitive colleges. President Lee Myung-bak has also called for college restructuring as a condition for providing government money to universities.

   In South Korea, 80 percent of higher education institutions are operated by private foundations that rely heavily on tuition for revenue.

And also:

The ministry said it has chosen the universities in consultation with advisory bodies based on the results of a university evaluation that used criteria, such as the employment rate of graduates, the yearly enrollment rate and the number of full-time instructors. 

The Herald has copied the same press release as Yonhap.

The news has reached Malaysia, where Bermana reports:

The education ministry has selected 43 private universities that will have their subsidies partly cut or denied next year as part of a government drive to weed out poorly managed schools.

I find this big news especially as I just finished writing a big article saying that blacklists couldn’t happen here.  I don’t exactly have egg on my face, but perhaps on my freshly washed jacket.

My old university is on the list, which I cannot find in full anywhere – Asiaone names a handful of the schools in question.  I hope that my friends are okay, or will be okay during the next semester.  Time to dust off those resumes!


UPDATED: I wrote this is sort of rush-to-press.  I don’t know, maybe I was trying to scoop other K-bloggers for some reason.  Anyway, there is more news this morning, but i am again in a rush as I must leave for work.

The Times has two articles that don’t integrate well.


Religious schools were also displeased with the ministry.

“Fifteen of 21 religious colleges boycotted the survey because they couldn’t trust the government’s evaluation criteria,” a spokesman for Holy People University in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, said asking not to be named. “Is it sensible to assess religious schools with the employment rate? Students choose us to study religion and become religious leaders, not to get a job.

and second:

Curiously, none of the 15 schools run by religious organizations are on the list.

I still have not seen a full list but am looking for one.  Any commenters know where to find one?

This list was found at the Joongang.  Thanks commenter Mattsid at Koreabridge. Click to biggify.

Libel in Korea and elsewhere

September 5, 2011
New Content here:
The Korea Herald recently looked into libel:
Truth does not offer absolute protection from prosecution, reflecting the Korean Constitution’s provision that “neither speech nor the press shall violate the honor or rights of other persons.” The burden of proof is on the defendant to prove his statement to be true and “solely in the public interest.”

“The rationale here is that even true statements are fully capable of tarnishing a person’s reputation, and if such true statements serve no public purpose, they are defamatory in nature,” said Kang Ju-won, an attorney and member of the Seoul Bar Association. “The aim is to protect the reputation of the individual unless it is outweighed by the public’s need for disclosure.”

—————Original content here————–
Below is a somewhat lengthier version of an article I wrote for Busan Haps.  One of the Haps’ editors asked for it and told me I could also put it on my blog.  I handed it in just over a week ago and told him I would put it up on my blog on Sept 5.  Here we are but I don’t see it there.
The article was supposed to be around 800 words but, after vigorous cutting  came out at about a thousand.  One thing I did not include in the article was my opinion of what should or could be done.  I don’t like Korea’s libel laws – or the UKs, etc- but the article was mostly a review of problems without any solutions offered.
Let me discuss my conclusions first for people who came here from the Busan Haps article  Below that is the article itself.
Blacklists: Blogger McPherson tried to warn ESL job seekers about the school he worked at and was sued for his trouble.  I follow McPherson’s blog and have met the man; I trust what he says and if he told me to stay away from a position, I would do it.  I can’t say that for everyone though.  Blacklists can become a way for crappy teachers to get back at their schools.  Also, a way for crappy schools to punish teachers.
I think Dave’s ESL Cafe (does anyone still go there) had a blacklist but can’t find one now. I did find this exchange:
[Cazador 83 asked:] Is there a thread on this website or is there another website that lists all the hagwons that are blacklisted? I tried searching but the search function on that site isn’t so great. 
[And Provence replied:] The main problem with creating a thread that blacklist hagwons in Korea is that it is illegal. I would love to warn everyone about my hagwon but I am worried they will find out it is me since I am the only foreign this school has had in 3 years. It wouldn’t be hard for them to figure out who blacklisted them. Basically they can blacklist you but you can’t blacklist them, welcome to Korea.
The Marmot discusses blacklists by hagwons of teachers here:
Marmot’s Note: One wonders how long this is going to last before it runs into legal problems. I mean, I know teachers run their own blacklists of hagwons, so what’s fair is fair, but my understanding is that in Korea, printing names like that could be problematic even if the accusations are true. The other thing is that the list is being composed by hagwon recruiters based on claims made by hagwon owners, two groups not known for their business ethics….

UPDATE 2: In our comments section, a real live lawyer says:

The blacklist is quite unlawful. Not only is it a criminal defamation violation under the Criminal Code, but the Labor Standards Act forbids employers to share blacklists. These teachers ought to complain to the prosecution.

Chris Backe in South Korea also warns against starting a blacklist here.
I’m on the fence.  A single blog post or newspaper article on a company or product, explaining why it is bad, a post with supporting evidence offered, seems appropriate. A wide-open list of products or companies that a similarly wide-open variety of authors dislike, for whatever reason offers less valuable information.  In short, blacklists are as useful as your knowledge of the person writing the information – caveat lectorem.
Another concern I have is with people charged-but-not-yet-convicted of various crimes.  At the Asian Correspondent, Nthan Schwartzman translated an article  about a (Korean) teacher molesting students.  At first, I wanted to know the name of the teacher especially as the parents wanted the teacher transferred.  If he is transferred, I really want to know his name.  Then, aware that even the suspicion of such a crime is poison, I realized that no one wants the name published until after a trial – at which point I hope they do publish it and not merely transfer the teacher.
I guess that although I do not like Korea’s libel laws, they certainly are defensible.  Play differently, lose differently.
——–Busan Haps article on Libel, by Surprises Aplenty——-
If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all. -Thumper’s Mom
A commenter at KoreaBridge wrote: “if you have an understanding of the American Constitution, you will have heard of freedom of speech. He is quite free to write whatever he wants…”
Thinking you have the legal rights freedoms here you would have if you were elsewhere is a good way get in trouble.  Indeed those legal freedoms, as relate to libel, aren’t so broad as you may think, in Korea or elsewhere.  A friend who has recently returned to Canada after more than a decade here adapted quickly to local libel laws by taking a toy store to task.  It appears he has since taken his post down (I think this was routine, he typically removes personal content after a week or so) but in it, he named the store and its specific location -just outside of Toronto with the recommendation that people not shop there.  I believe his post contained useful information, was honest, the facts were correct and specific and was written to help other shoppers.  If he posted it here in Korea, he could have faced a fine and possible deportation.Generally, a written work is libellous if it defames someone identifiable and living, is given to people other than the victim and the victim reputation or income suffers. (Libel defined.  And here.)  Usually, if the material is true, it is protected.  Results of court cases can be described, for example. Satire can be protected…if it is blunt or obvious enough.  Pubic figures, like politicians are less protected so discussions about them can be as free as possible, but media personnel and celebrities are also in this group.  Opinions are protected, but as with satire, it had better be clear that you are stating an opinion.To avoid libeling someone you could use a pseudonym or avoid using a name altogether. This is NOT a free pass, however.  If the person can be identified by your description, you could still be charged with libel.Why did I begin to care so much about libel that BusanHaps mistook me for an expert?  Because of one apparent difference in the way libel works here: truth is not a defence in Korea.  Well, that point plus the strangeness of the exceptions or loopholes that the media seems to follow.As a moderator for KoreaBridge, I needed to judge a post about a recruiter that a new poster disliked.  “beware of [Korean city][district of that city][English nickname], aged XX.  …doesn’t care about the teacher…JOBS SUCK!!”   This post, with the raging ALL-CAPS ending, is clearly an opinion but far too descriptive of the recruiter.  The owner of KoreaBridge confirmed we couldn’t accept the post as it was too specific.

Joe McPherson is a blogging acquaintance of mine who had some trouble with a hagwon he worked at.  After considerable time and effort, he won a court case against them.  To assist others, he blogged about his experiences and named the hagwon.  Back to court for him, this time as the defendant. Read The Libel Trap at the Joongang for details.

These examples demonstrate the problem I have with Korean Libel laws.  Although the first example is a little overwrought, the first two are attempts at public service announcements.  These people are trying to help others avoid their mistakes.  Apparently, you can’t do that here.  No blacklists.  Also, be careful with satire:

Michael Breen was recently sued for libel by an organization that is too big and scary for me to name.  Let me throw The Marmot under the bus. Breen was also interviewed here at the Haps in April.

Professional media sources know this and tailor their articles accordingly.  Investigative journalism is toothless here.

Consider the ‘Babyrose’ scandal.  Babyrose, a Korean ‘power blogger’ raved about an air sterilizer  and many purchased the product.  Turns out, the sterilizer had some unhealthy flaws and Babyrose pocketed money from every sale.  Korean news outlets had a field day.  Hats off to the Korea Herald which alone of the three papers I read  included the blogger’s real name, but none of the papers named the unsafe sterilizer.  That would have been a good thing to know.

In June, I read a news article about three ‘bad’ universities.  Again, no names were given. The Joongang attempted good investigative journalism but the attempt is useless without the names.

So we know that at least one kind of sterilizer is unsafe and there are at least three bad universities in Korea.  One is in Gangwondo and another in Jeju.  The malfeasant institutions are relatively unharmed, but all in their niche are suspect.

Updated on Sept 7, 2011: Asiaone has news of 43 universities being blacklisted.  One Gangwon university is named:

Kwandong University expressed similar complaints.

“The whole school is shocked and confused,” said one official. The university is one of major four-year universities in Gangwon Province.

original article:

To further confuse the issue, or maybe out of fear, newspapers have at least once hidden the identity of a person I don’t feel was protected.
Back in 2007, during the problems with US beef being imported, a man, presumably a Korean cattle farmer, threw cow manure over American beef at a Lotte Mart (original here).  In the photo, you can see many photographers on hand: clearly this was a PR event and journalists had been invited.  Look at the man throwing the manure.  If he planned this event and invited the media, why is his face – and those of the other sash-wearers- pixellated?

Another complication is described by Chris Backe.  He wants to know why the Anti-English Spectrum group has not been charged with libel. The AES has stated in the past that “that foreigners engage in “sexual molestation,” and that they “target children.””  Backe wonders who and how to sue:

Who is the guilty party, though? The AES as a whole? Naver, for not shutting down a website that is against the law / their own principles? The person / people whose posts are allowed to promote a racist / xenophobic agenda? The lawmakers who go on record with the same racist / xenophobic agenda? And how has a foreigner’s reputation been damaged? Both of those things would have to be figured out before a libel case could go forward.
In politics and crime stories, everyone knows what is happening in the US – often better than they do in their own countries or in Korea.  I started this article with a comment from a person who seemed to think American freedoms are defended here.  That commenter should also be careful in other countries.In the UK, the reporter Simon Singh let slip the word ‘bogus’ in an article about chiropractic.  He lost his first court case but eventually won.
“Simon is likely to be out of pocket by about £20,000. This – and two years of lost earnings, which he can never recover, is the price he has paid for writing an article criticising the BCA for making claims the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled can no longer be made. In the game of libel, even winning is costly and stressful.”  
Indeed, the UK is known for libel tourism.“one of the favored venues for restrictive and chilling judgments is England, where libel laws are heavily weighted toward the plaintiff, placing on the defendant the entire burden of proving that a statement was not false and injurious.”In Canada, Dr Jeffery Shallit from the University of Waterloo, describes ‘libel chill’ in this article.  “…if the court finds you told the truth but your intent was malicious, you might lose anyway.”  At The New Republic, libel in China and Singapore is mentioned, mostly as a tool used by the government to control dissent.  In the US, it does seem you are well protected from libel; at least senators are.  Jon Kyl seems to be fine after claiming 90% of Planned Parenthood’s business comes from abortions.  The correct number is 3%.  The Colbert Report had fun with this one.

blogs and traditional media; In Korea, neither has legitimacy

July 15, 2011

The local English Newspapers are excitedly reporting on ‘babyrose’, a Korean blogger who turned out to be a shill for an ozone-producing sterilizing device.

The problem is, Korean libel laws prevent anyone from reporting on things in a way that negatively affects a person or company.  That negative effect is usually measured financially, but might be considered in other ways (IANAL*).

So, it is mostly legal to report or blog about something you like, but not to warn people away from it.

Now, I’ve told you generally what the issue is.  Let’s look at what the newspapers have to say:


The uproar over a popular blogger, Babyrose, who gushed about and peddled an unsafe product in exchange for money has sparked soul-searching within the country’s blogosphere….Unlike in other countries where bloggers have come to challenge the traditional media structure and have been legitimized as an alternate media outlet, few in Korea seem to consider its bloggers the same way.

“Blogging is neither journalism nor a form of media outlet,” said Professor Lee Gun-ho of Ewha Womans University. “Bloggers are not trained to report information objectively, and they are not trained to filter what’s trustworthy information and what’s not.”

The Herald:

They said 46-year-old Hyun Jin-heui, running one of the nation’s most visited blogs, had arranged sales of an electronic gadget that could harm people’s health and bagged a fortune in commission. The blog,, has more than 50 million accumulated hits under the ID babyrose. 

According to the “victims,” Hyun induced 3,300 people to purchase 360,000 won ($305)-ozone sterilizers through her web site over the past 10 months. But the device turned out to use an excessive amount of ozone, which could make people sick, according to the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards. Nonetheless, the company refused to give refunds citing lack of scientific evidence. 

The Times:

The controversy was stirred by a blogger nicknamed Babyrose, who runs a popular blog about cooking on the country’s biggest portal Naver. The wife-turned-blogger was a superstar online,…

On top of recipes, she often held a group shopping event….

However, an ozone sterilizer sold through her blog turned out to leave an excessive amount of ozone, which could harm people’s health, according to the Korea Agency for Technology and Standards. …

Those who purchased it through the Babyrose blog sought a refund and it was revealed that she was paid 70,000 won in commission for each ozone sterilizer sold, priced at 360,000 won.

Again, the Joongang:

Ms. Hyeon, a 47-year-old housewife, is a famous homemaking blogger in Korea better known as “Babyrose,” her online ID. She was recently found to have recommended and sold a product after being promised hefty commissions by the manufacturer.

Hats off to the Herald, which printed the bloggers full name and blog address.  Few reports based on blogs report the URL.  Notice that no other report offers more than “Ms. Hyeon” and many less than that.

 Quick Quiz: what is the name of this dangerous ozone sterilizer?  That’s right.  No name is ever given.

Now, the reporters are onto a good story.  This blogger received 70,000 won, nearly 20% of the price, for each sterilizer sold.  I don’t know but that seems excessive.   The question now is, are these sterilizers sold at Hi-Mart?  At Home-Plus?  We don’t know; no name is given.

This blogger, at best made a mistake, at worst knowingly endangered people’s health.  The latter is a tough sell as there is no reason to believe she knew the dangers – I feel the huge commission is a bit of an indicator.

Is the solution to dismiss every blogger because one (even a famous and popular one) acted unethically?  If so, we need to visit Brian in Jeollanam-do’s Blog.  Not to dismiss him, but to look at his reports on Korean Journalism.

Two posts from Shoddy Journalism:


““Most of the native English speakers don’t have much affection toward our children because they came here to earn money and they often cause problems,” Park said.”

a quotation that was later revealed to be fabricated by the reporter.


As mentioned on Gusts of Popular Feeling earlier in the week, the Hankyoreh issued a correction and apology for their article “Over half of native English teachers quit job after six months,” …

As blogged on this site, it was one of several articles that spread false information regarding native speaker English teacher retention rates that claimed that many—and in the Hankyoreh‘s case two-thirds—of NSETs quit their contracts early. Dated October 13th, the correction titled “Less than 5 pct. of native English teachers quit job halfway” reads in part:


Korean television isn’t much (any) better.  Recently, Koreans learned that long-running restaurant tourism shows that visit local restaurants and rave about their food received kickbacks before visiting the establishments (here, 2nd article, about halfway down).

I would describe myself as a niche blogger -even though I really don’t know what my niche is.  I guess, because Korean reportage of issues that affect ex-pats is relatively weak – and incorrect, as described above – many foreigners depend on blogs to get real and useful news.

One does need to be careful and it helps to confirm news reports from a few sources before trusting it completely.  But that has always been always true, regardless of the media source.  I trust Korean newspapers somewhat with tourism articles (if only they could give more than one day’s notice when a festival is taking place) and with most news.  If I want international news, I go to international news websites.  And finally, if I want to know about issues that affect English speaking foreigners in Korea, I go to the blogs.  On the blogs, I know that GI Korea‘s reporting will be more or less completely accurate but with a right-wing slant.  The Marmot is the first place for news, although sometimes actual commentary on that news is lacking. If you want to visit Gangwondo, you must visit Gangwon Notes** first; even though it is not being well maintained these days, it is still the best source for Gangwon Info.  Once you know how a blogger thinks, you can determine his/her accuracy just fine.  I think people who consistently read newspapers or watch specific news programs use the same kind of discrimination as for needed with bloggers.


*I’ve never used the acronym before.  I think it means I Am Not A Lawyer and not that “I’M ANAL”!

** Yes, that’s me.

Libel reform; a big deal in the UK

November 11, 2010

Here in Korea, stating something that harms-financially or otherwise- a business or group, even if it is true, is legally actionable.

The Marmot and Brian in Jeollamando have discussed the issue.  I recall a case a few years back where a hagwon ESL teacher complained in print about his school.  He was then sued.  After a very quick search I was unable to find posts on the story at the above blogs.

In the UK, similar problems exist and were brought to light in the case of Simon Singh and the British Chiropractic Association.  From the Guardian:

Singh was sued by the BCA for a piece he wrote in the Guardian‘s comment pages, criticising the association for defending chiropractors who use treatments for which there is little evidence on children with conditions such as colic and asthma.

Now Pharyngula, and doubtless other blogs and citizens in the UK, are pushing for libel reform.

This week is the first anniversary of the report Free Speech is Not for Sale, which highlighted the oppressive nature of English libel law. In short, the law is extremely hostile to writers, while being unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence critics.

The English libel law is particular dangerous for bloggers, who are generally not backed by publishers, and who can end up being sued in London regardless of where the blog was posted. The internet allows bloggers to reach a global audience, but it also allows the High Court in London to have a global reach.

I am uncertain of the value of signatures on a petition from out of the UK, but there is a petition here, if you’re so inclined.

I am now going to play the foreigner card and cowardly suggest that this kind of reform needs to take place here and ask if any Koreans are willing to get to work on it…I will watch and cheer you on.

dokdoisours on Samsung’s lawsuit

May 10, 2010

Samsung is suing Michael Breen, a reporter, for his description of the company and it’s leadership.  I don’t know what the article was about, but now I want to.

Dokdoisours comments:

Hey everybody reading this. You should go buy Samsung products. They sure are great. Let me tell you. I use a Samsung phone. I’d write this blog on my Samsung phone if I could afford a cool enough Samsung phone. ‘Cause Samsung sure is great. I wish my blog’s address were “” but Samsung already owned that URL, so I had to settle for Dokdo Is Ours.