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South Korea: where sarcasm can get you thrown in jail

Park Jeong Keun, a 23-year-old photographer, is embroiled in legal trouble for retweeting posts from North Korea's official Twitter account.

He voiced concern that "many criminal defamation suits are filed for statements that are true and are in the public interest, and used to penalize individuals who express criticisms of the government."

Journalists say the erosion of freedoms taken for granted in liberal democracies has seeped into the broadcast media, where more than 1,000 union members have been on strike since early this year in protest at government interference in news coverage.

The dispute centers on Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), which strikers accuse of pro-government bias under its president, Kim In Kyu, who helped with Lee Myung Bak's election campaign in 2007. KBS and staff from other broadcasters have called for Kim and "politically appointed" executives from other networks to be replaced, for sacked union members to be reinstated and for the return of "fairness and justice" to South Korean journalism through changes to the broadcasting law.

A spokesman for the National Union of Media Workers told GlobalPost that close ties between the Lee government and senior TV executives had "corrupted" South Korean journalism.

"Our action is intended to put an end to the destruction of proper reporting and restore our viewers' right to know," said the spokesman, who did not wish to be named. "Freedom of the press in South Korea is worse now than it was even under the military dictatorships of the 1960s and 1970s."