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Problems in press freedom and democracy

May 10, 2024

SEOUL – The 2024 World Press Freedom Index, released recently by Reporters Without Borders, an international organization for monitoring press freedom, contains a severe warning to democracy in Korea. In the index, which reflects the media situation in 2023, South Korea ranked 62nd out of 180 countries surveyed. Korea received its worst report card since it ranked 69th in the 2009 index and 70th in the 2016 index. It was 43rd in the 2022 index, when the index methodology was changed significantly, but fell to 47th in the 2023 index and then plunged 19 steps down in two years. Furthermore, Korea has been demoted to the third category of “problematic” among the five categories, though it has usually been included in the second category of “satisfactory.”

It is even more shocking to look at the details. In terms of press freedom in the political context out of five contexts, Korea ranked 77th. In the sociocultural context, it was 89th. The index is even more ominous when we recall that Korea fell from 13th to 47th in five years in the annual Democracy Report index by the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. If we think the democracy index was the first alarm on the state of South Korea’s democracy, this time should be the second warning on the state of Korea’s press freedom as the cornerstone of democracy.

It is painful to see Korea’s press freedom fall from the top class to the middle level in just a couple of years. However, there is also a positive point in that exposing problems provides opportunities to correct them. Analyzing the press freedom index can reveal three issues: the president’s perception of the media, a partisan approach to journalism and social