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South Korea Despite the fact that South Korea has one of the most advanced information communication technology sectors in the world, online expression remains under the strict legal and technological control of the central government. The country is the global leader in Internet connectivity and speed, but its restrictions on what Internet users can access are substantial. RESULTS AT A GLANCE Filtering No Evidence of Filtering Suspected Filtering Selective Filtering Substantial Filtering Pervasive Filtering Political • Social • Conflict and security • Internet tools • OTHER FACTORS Low Medium High Not Applicable Transparency • Consistency • 352 South Korea Background The Republic of Korea (commonly referred to as South Korea) was established in 1948 and spent most of its first four decades under authoritarian rule. In response to massive protests in 1987, the government eventually enacted a democratic constitution that has endured to this day. South Korea has become one of the most vibrant democracies in the eastern hemisphere, and its human rights record has markedly improved since the 1990s. Today, South Korean citizens enjoy universal suffrage and broad constitutional freedoms, and they choose their leaders in free and fair multiparty elections. The diplomatic policies of South Korea are heavily influenced by its relationship with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (commonly referred to as North Korea). South Korea has been technically at war since the two sides fought to a stalemate in 1953. Since then the government has often been intolerant of dissident views, particularly from supporters of communism or of North Korea.1 The National Security Law (NSL) is the epitome of the government’s stance—thousands of South Koreans have been arrested under the anticommunist law since its enactment in 1948.2 Although prosecutions under the NSL have significantly decreased since the late 20th century, there have been a few recent high-profile investigations using the law. At the start of the 21st century, South Korea attempted a new policy of engagement with KEY INDICATORS GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2005 international dollars) 25,493 Life expectancy at birth, total (years) 80 Literacy rate, adult total (percent of people age 15+) 99* Human Development Index (out of 169) 12 Rule of Law (out of 5) 3.5 Voice and Accountability (out of 5) 3.2 Democracy Index (out of 167) 20 (Full democracy) Digital Opportunity Index (out of 181) 1 Internet penetration rate (percentage of population) 81.5 *South Korea does not report literacy rate information. In previous years, the United Nations has assumed a literacy rate of 99 percent for the country. See United Nations Development Program, “Human Development Report 2009: Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development,” 2009, Source by indicator: World Bank 2009, World Bank 2008a, UNDP 2009, UNDP 2010, World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators 2009, Economist Intelligence Unit 2010, ITU 2007, ITU 2009. See Introduction to the Country Profiles, pp. 222–223. ONI Country Profile 353 North Korea. Known as the Sunshine Policy, it was enacted by Kim Dae-jung, the 2000 Nobel Prize laureate who served as president from 1998 until 2003.3 However, the frequent military provocations of North Korea continue to pose ongoing threats to security in South Korea. Today, freedom of expression online in South Korea, with its political and economic complexities, is confronting a new phase of controversy. Internet in South Korea South Korea is one of the most connected countries and most penetrated broadband markets in the world: by 2010, more than 81 percent of citizens had access to the Internet,4 and more than 16 million people subscribed to broadband service.5 Following heavy investment in broadband infrastructure after the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, South Korea now provides its citizens with a national network that carries data at average speeds of 17 Mbps, the highest in the world.6 Its capital, Seoul, has been named “the bandwidth capital of the world,” with its fast yet inexpensive broadband service.7 Besides Seoul, major cities in South Korea also supply wireless broadband through Wibro and High-Speed Downlink Packet Access technologies. As a result of this broad coverage, over three-quarters of South Koreans use the Internet more than once per day.8 As of 2010, there were 126 Internet service providers (ISPs) in the country interconnected through five Internet exchange points (IXPs).9 However, of these 126 ISPs, three (KT, formerly known as Korea Telecom, Hanaro Telecom, and Korea Thrunet) control almost 85 percent of the...


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