The Lee Myung-bak government’s response to the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March 2010 was a hard-line policy that met with widespread public doubt and criticism. His conservative government reacted to critics with suppression of free speech and use of state power to control the media. As a result, international ratings of press freedom and Internet freedom for South Korea were downgraded. The government relied on national security rhetoric; however, its primary legal tools were not the National Security Law but rather criminal defamation and broadcasting and Internet regulations. I discuss some factors that make South Korean democracy vulnerable to erosion of press freedom, including the enduring influence of the Cold War, fragility of liberalism, and the lack of executive constraints.