Definition of Defamation in Korea

Supreme Court Decision 97Da19038 delivered on February 27, 1998

Translation of Official Court Summary 

a. When a media, such as broadcast etc, defames one by presenting fact, the action has no illegality when the alleged fact is related to a public matter, the presentation is intended solely for the public interest, and the alleged fact is proved to be true. In addition, even when the alleged fact is not proved to be true, but the presenter believes that the alleged fact is true and has substantial reasons to believe so, the action shall be deemed to have no criminal or reckless intent.

b. As regard to a defamatory act of the media, to decide whether the presenter has substantial reasons to believe the alleged fact is true or not, the content of the presented fact, certainty of evidence or resources that made the fact be believable, method of expression and other factors shall be all considered. Especially, if the alleged fact is a historical one, the research on the historical fact and freedom of expression shall take priority over the honor of the deceased and his/her family. And in making the decision, it should also be considered that it is difficult to check the truth of the alleged fact, since the objective source to check the truth is limited.

Translations of Korean Court Entertainment Law Cases (Court Summaries)


Sean Hayes is co-chair of the Korea Practice Team at IPG Legal. He is the only non-Korean to have worked as an attorney for the Korean court system (Constitutional Court of Korea) and one of the first non-Koreans to be a regular member of a Korean law faculty.

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