Unlike Europe, South Korea does not ban expressions of hatred against individuals or groups, unless it is tantamount to defamation. This may change soon, as some lawmakers move to protect former President Moon Jae-in from loud, vulgar rallies outside his retirement home.
On Wednesday, a total of 15 lawmakers from the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, to which Moon belongs, proposed a legislative motion to revise the demonstration law to ban hate speech during protests – the first such move in South Korea to restrict freedom of speech over hatred.
The legislative motion, led by Rep. Park Kwang-on, would ban protestors from causing a threat to citizens by repeatedly inciting hatred against a specific group or individual during speeches, or instigating violent activities during protests.
Current law stipulates that the authorities can ban protests that may “seriously affect the privacy of residents.” The revised law would include “noise and insults that could severely inflict upon other people’s personal rights.”
Under the proposed bill, actions like repeatedly playing sounds and videos that trigger fear or displaying such photos could be banned.
Last week, Rep. Park voiced opposition against the month-long protests taking place at a small village in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province where Moon has settled since his retirement. “We need a law to restrict hate speech... Those who abuse freedom to protest and spread false rumors in public places, and instigate violence by inciting hatred must be stopped,” he said.
The latest move follows similar legislative proposals by DP members to curb the persistent protests outside Moon’s home. They have already proposed revisions of the same law to ban defamation or causing loud noises that can inflict physical damage to others.
The liberal party holds an absolute majority in the country’s unicameral parliament.
Moon’s family has filed charges against four individuals from three protest groups, including defamation by alleging false facts and threats of murder and arson. There have been hundreds of complaints related to the protests from the local residents filed to the South Gyeongsang provincial government.
By Yoon Min-sik