Banyan – South Korea’s liberal rulers unleash their inner authoritarians | Asia

Banyan – South Korea’s liberal rulers unleash their inner authoritarians | Asia

Aug 20th 2020SOUTH KOREA has a proud history of noisy opposition to the powers that be. Japanese colonisers found their subjects unruly. Homegrown m

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SOUTH KOREA has a proud history of noisy opposition to the powers that be. Japanese colonisers found their subjects unruly. Homegrown military dictators, who brutally suppressed their citizens’ democratic yearnings for decades, eventually yielded to widespread protests. Even democratically elected leaders have incurred the wrath of civil society. Park Geun-hye, the predecessor of Moon Jae-in, the current president, was chased out of office in 2017 after millions of South Koreans took to the streets to decry rampant corruption in her government.

Ms Park’s left-wing successors had vowed to do better. Mr Moon, a former activist and human-rights lawyer, and his Minjoo party claim to embody the legacy of the pro-democracy movement. They promised to honour the spirit of the protests that swept them to power. The country would become more egalitarian. The government would be more open, tolerant of dissent and responsive.

Those good intentions seem to be flagging. Opponents of the government are again finding that their views may attract litigation rather than benign indifference or even constructive responses. Nearly a fifth of civil libel suits against media organisations last year involved senior officials, more than during Ms Park’s administration.

Last month the president’s office appealed against a court ruling that cleared a conservative newspaper of defaming Mr…



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