Asia: Korea (South)

The Code of Press Ethics

Current Status: unknown

(Adopted in 1957, revised in April 1996 by Korean Newspapers Association Korean Newspaper and Broadcasting Editors Association Journalists Association of Korea)


We the journalists pledge ourselves that we will honor the mission of the press by upholding a free and responsible press.  We believe a free and responsible press is critically important to advancing the nation's democratization, unification efforts, and culture and arts.  With this belief, we had adopted the Code of Press Ethics early on April 7, 1957, in order to voluntarily observe the standards of practices and professional conduct.  Now, by continuing that high spirit of those days, the Korean Newspapers Association, the Korean Newspaper and Broadcas¬ting Editors Association, and the Journalists Association of Korea have hereby adopted a revised Code of Press Ethics to better meet the needs of today's information age and other changes in society.

1. Freedom of the Press

We the journalists believe in the freedom of the press as our overriding right to honor the public's right to know.  Therefore, we pledge ourselves that we will guard this press freedom from both internal and external interferences, pressures, and encroa¬ch¬¬ment.

Il. Responsibility of the Press

We the journalists believe that the press as public mass media carries with it a very important responsibility.  To execute this responsibility, we pledge ourselves that we will do our best to foster healthy public opinions, improve the general welfare, and advances the nation's culture and arts.  We also pledge oursel¬ves that we will vigorously protect the people's basic human rights.

Ill.  Independence of the Press

We the journalists declare that the press ought to be indepen¬dent from various external forces of influence such as politics, businesses, societal interest groups, and religious units.  We will resolutely reject any external attempt to interfere with, or unduly use, the press.

IV. News and Commentary

We the journalists pledge ourselves that we will report news to its full extent truthfully, objectively, and in a fair manner.  We further pledge ourselves that we will adhere to the truthful information and fairness in presenting analysis, commentary, and opinions, and that by taking the diverse opinions in society into account we will contribute to fostering a healthy public opinion.

V. Honoring Dignity and Privacy

We the journalists pledge ourselves that we will not damage the dignity of people and we will not violate individuals' right to privacy.

VI. Honoring the Right to Reply and Access to Media

We the journalists, conscious of the press being public mass media, will strive to honor individuals' rights, and in particular will try to provide the readers with opportunities to reply, to express their opinions, and to present opposing views.

VIl.  Conduct of Journalists

We the journalists will conduct ourselves with decency and dignity.  We will refrain from using vulgar language, and by doing so will strive to promote a proper use of the national tongue in the people's daily lives.

The Standards of Practice

Under the Code of Press Ethics


We the journalists have adopted and pledged ourselves to honor the Standards of Practice here set forth in specific terms in order to uphold the Code of Press Ethics that has been adopted jointly by the Korean Newspapers Association, the Korean Newspaper Editors Association, and the Journalists Association of Korea.  Further, we declare the Standards of Practice under the Code of Press Ethics to bc the guidelines of the Korean Press Ethics Commission.

  1. Press Freedom, Independence, and Responsibility

Journalists should reject undue suppression and pressure in order to practice a free and responsible press, and for that cause should adhere to editorial freedom and independence.

1 . (Freedom from Political Forces) Journalists should reject any undue pressure or request that the political forces of such agents as the government administration, political parties, and political factions apply against the press.

2. (Independence from Socioeconomic Forces) Journalists should reject any undue pressure, monetary offering, or request for favors coming from various socioeconomic forces such as social groups, religious units, interest groups, and businesses.

3. (Social Responsibility) Journalists must strive to protect the rights of individuals, and must treat the important public issues affirmatively in order to be helpful to fostering healthy public opinions and advancing the general welfare.  They should not discriminate against individuals on the basis of regionalism, religious beliefs, or race.

Il. Guidelines for News Gathering

Journalists will show respect for the dignity of people and institu¬ti¬ons encountered in the course of gathering information for news reporting.  In that course, they should not employ unethical or illegal methods.  Additionally, journalists should not threaten or cause discomfort to individuals while collecting information for news.

  1. (Misrepresentation and Use of Properties) Journalists should neither misrepresent their identity for expediency in news gathering nor misuse, examine, or take such properties as documents, data, electronically stored information, photos, and other video materials without obtaining permission from their rightful owners or caretakers.  Exceptions can be made in cases where there is an overriding public interest at stake and there is no other way of collecting the information.

  2. (Reporting on Natural Disasters) In the course of gathering news on natural disasters or accidents, journalists should not violate the dignity of human beings and cause inconvenience in the delivery of needed medical help to the victims.  In such settings, journalists should conduct themselves with decency toward the victims and their families.

  3. (Reporting at Hospitals) In collecting news at hospitals, clinics, and other medical institutions, journalists should correctly represent their identity, and should not enter non-public areas without obtaining permission.  Further, they should not encounter patients for news gathering or take their photographs without first obtaining due permission from the institution.  Additionally, they should not cause inconvenience in the delivery of medical help to the patients.

  4. (Phone Interviews) In collecting news by phone, journalists, in principle, should immediately identify themselves as reporters.  If the news sources on the phone refuse to cooperate, journalists should not harass them by repeated calls.

  5. (Surreptitious Listening and Photographing) Journalists should not violate individuals' rights to privacy by means of surreptitious phone listening and photographing.

III.  Guidelines for News Reporting

News reports, including news analysis, should be presented with all the factual information confirmed and obtained from clearly identified news sources.  Journalists are obligated to seek truth¬ful information affirmatively in order to serve the cause of social justice and public interest.

  1. (Distinction between News and Opinion) In news reports, journalists should differentiate facts from opinions.  Further, they should not select or write news based on their self-serving personal interests or biases.

  2. (Specifying Unconfirmed information) Journalists, in rare cases where they have to use unconfirmed information or unidentified news sources, should make it clear in their reports that they are using such information.

  3. (Sensationalization) Journalists should refrain from resorting to sensationalism in their reports on such illegal or unethical acts as sex crimes and violence.  In such reports, they should avoid using prurient or cruel contents or vulgar expressions.

  4. (Chance to Reply) Journalists, in reporting on news that includes criticism of or charges against individuals and groups, should provide to such parties a chance to reply, and should take into account the answers in such reports.

  5. (Verifying Information from Pecuniary Interests) In principle, the information provided by news sources should be verified of its factuality before being presented as news.  Journalists, in particular, should guard against public relations information efforts of vested commercial interest.                       

  6. (Verifying Charges) Journalists, in dealing with the charges provided by police or prosecution, should try to verify the truthfulness of the facts in the charges, and further should give the accused a chance to reply.

IV. Reporting on the Judiciary

Journalists should not resort to any news gathering, reporting, or commentary that damages unfairly the independence of the judiciary.

  1. (Reporting on Trials) Journalists, in reporting on trials, should not do news gathering, reporting, or criticism that affects the trials unfairly.

  2. (Reporting on Decisions) Journalists should not report or comment on judicial decisions or official charges before they are duly presented. Exceptions are allowed in cases where the part¬ies involved volunteer the contents contained in such official documents.

V. Specifying and Protecting News Sources

In news reports, journalists in principle should not employ disguised or unidentified news sources.  Further, they should not use hypothetical or bogus news sources. Journalists should not write news if they have agreed to an off-the-record request from news sources.

  1. (Specifying News Sources) Journalists should in principle specify the source of the information they use in reports.  How¬ever, they can accept the request from the source for anonymity if they believe there is an overriding public interest or news value at stake.  Even in this case, journalists should try to confirm the reason why the source requests anonymity, the source's institutional affiliation, and his or her place in that organization.

  2. (Anonymity Involving Charges) Journalists, in principle, should not accept a request for anonymity from any source which engages himself or herself in criticizing or attacking a third party based upon his or her one-sided claims or unidentified sources.

  3. (Anonymity Involving Backgrounder) In a backgrounder session, journalists may accept a request for anonymity, if deem¬ed needed for public interest.  But, in this case, they should reveal the source's institutional affiliation and his or her position in that organization in general terms.

  4. (Agreement with the Source on Anonymity) If the journalist has once agreed to the confidentiality of a source or to the hand¬ling of information off-the-record, he or she should not breach the agreement unless the source is the party of unethical or illegal acts.

  5. (Protecting News Sources) Journalists should not identify the source if its exposure is likely to invite threat to its safety or cause undue disadvantages to its interest.

VI. Withholding Information

Journalists should honor a request from a source for withholding information for a specified period of time unless there is an extraordinary circumstance to the contrary.

  1. (Extending the Withholding of Information) Journalists may not collaborate among themselves to arbitrarily extend the withholding of information beyond the time frame originally requested by the source.

  2. (Voiding the Agreement on Withholding) Press institutions will not be bound to adhere to an agreement on withholding information once the agreement is breached.

VII. Crime Reports and Human Rights

Journalists should respect the human rights of the accused and the defendants in criminal cases whose guilt has not yet been proven.  Further, they should respect the human rights of the mentally disabled involved in criminal charges, the victims of sex crimes, and their innocent family members.  In particular, they should be discreet in naming such individuals in their reports.

  1. (Criminal Suspects and Defendants) Mindful of the fact that the accused and the defendants in criminal cases are conside¬red innocent until proven guilty, journalists should respect the dignity of such people, for instance, by addressing them with appropriate titles.  Depending on individual newsroom policies, exceptions could be made in cases where the accused are those caught in action or are under indictment.

  2. (Mentally Disabled) Both reporters and editors should be discreet in naming the suspects charged for crime, conscious of the possibility that such suspects may be determined to be not guilty for the reason of insanity.

  3. (Victims of Sex Crimes) In their reports on sex crimes, reporters and editors should not expose the identity of innocent family members.

  4. (Protecting Juvenile Suspects) Reporters and editors should neither name nor present photographs of juvenile criminal sus¬pects or defendants who are 18 years in age or younger.

  5. (Photographing the Suspects) Journalists should not take photographs of the criminally accused, print their photographs, or broadcast their video images without obtaining their permis¬sion. Excepted from this guideline are the accused caught in action and public figures.

  6. (Photographing the Witnesses) Journalists should neither take photographs nor print photographs of witnesses who are not suspects without obtaining their permission.  Public figures are excepted from this guideline.

VIII.  Handling Copyrighted Materials

The news media and journalists should not plagiarize from other newspapers, wire services, magazines, other periodicals, copyrighted materials, photographs, art work, music, and other audio-visual materials.  When they carry such materials in enti¬r¬e¬¬¬ty or quote from them, they should give credit to the original publications.

(Giving Credits to Wire-Service Reports) The news media and journalists should differentiate their own stories from the reports provided by wire services by giving credits appropriately.  They should not present a news story as their own by making minor changes to a report provided by wire services.

2 . (Giving Credits to Other Newspapers) The news media and journalists should not plagiarize from other media's news reports and commentary.  Nor can they quote from other media without giving a proper attribution to such publications.

  1. (Giving Credits to Other Publications) The new media and journalists should not infringe upon others' copyrights.  When they use copyrighted materials with permission from the copyright holders, they should give credits to such sources.

  2. (Giving Credits on Photographs and Other Audio-visual Materials) The news media and journalists should honor the copyrights held by individuals and groups over photographs, art work, music, and other audio-visual materials.  When they use such materials in their reports or commentary, they should give credits to the sources.

IX. Guidelines for Commentary

Commentary should be based on truthful information, be fair and balanced in presenting opinions, and in particular should avoid intentional biases and distortions.  Further, commentary should freely present political views, introduce the diversity in public opinions on social issues, and thus strive to foster a healthy public opinion.

  1. (Propriety of Editorials) Editorials should speak for the news medium's institutional wisdom, and should not represent its commercial interest nor the interests of any particular group or party.

  2. (Freedom of Political Commentary) Editorials and commen¬ta¬ry, unless prohibited by law, can freely express the news medium's political stance, including expression of its support of or opposition to certain political parties or political candidates in elections.

  3. (Right to Reply) if editorials and commentary are critical of certain individuals or groups, the parties affected should be given an appropriate chance to reply.

X. Guideline for Editing

Editors should be free from internal and external pressures and encroachment, and should be allowed to edit independently under the medium's pronounced guideline. Further, editors should not sensationalize by exaggerating and distorting the news contents.

  1. (Principle for Headlines) Headlines should state the essence of the news story, instead of exaggerating or distorting the story.

  2. (Dishonest Editing and Sensationalism) Editors should not delete stories, change news placement, or change contents because of undue demands from internal and external sources.  They should refrain from editing the stories for sensationalistic effects by using prurient or violent contents.

  3. (Unconfirmed Reports) Editors should refrain from exagge¬ra¬ting unconfirmed reports or the reports based on less than clearly identifiable sources even if such reports had to be presented.

  4. (Handling Contributors' Articles) Editors should not make substantive changes to the articles submitted by contributors from outside of the medium without obtaining consent from them.

  5. (Correcting Errors) If errors are found afterwards or if readers call errors to attention, editors should present the fact to that effect immediately and in a pronounced manner.

  6. (Presenting Photographs) News photographs, when presented in relation to a news story, should bear a direct relevance to the story, and be explained as such in the caption.  If the news photo¬graphs used are indirectly related to the news story, the caption should mention that indirect relevance.

  7. (Handling Photographs) Editors should not alter the news photographs by deleting, adding, or changing the contents.  However, they are allowed to alter the news photographs minimally in cases where technical necessities dictate it.  In such cases, such facts of minimal alteration have to be mentioned accordingly.

XI. Respecting Honor and Credibility

Journalists should not present news reports or commentary that unfairly damages the honor and credibility of individuals and groups.

  1. (Individuals' Honor and Credibility) Journalists should not damage the honor and credibility of individuals and groups with false reports, inaccurate reports, distortion of facts, and with factual reports that have no bearing upon the public interest.

  2. (Libel by Vulgar Expression) Journalists should not damage the honor and dignity of individuals and groups by using vulgar expressions.

  3. (Honoring the Reputation of the Deceased) News reports and commentary should not unduly violate the reputation of the deceased.

XII.  Protection of Private Lives

Journalists should not report or present a commentary on an individual's private life unless it is critically relevant to the public interest.

  1. (Private Lives) Journalists should not enter an individual's residence or domain of private life without his or her permission.

  2. (Electronically Stored Information) Journalists should not examine or retrieve personally owned information stored in electronic devices, such as computers, without permission from the owners or managers of the devices.

  3. (Photographing Private Lives) Journalists should neither photograph nor report on individuals' private lives, properties, and other privately owned objects without obtaining consent from the parties involved.  Public figures are excepted from this guideline.

  4. (Private Lives of Public Figures) When reporting or commen¬ting on the private lives of public figures, journalists should guard against excesses and impropriety.

XIII.  Protection of Children

Journalists should be mindful of their role in affecting children's early socialization, healthy personalities, and their growth in citizenship.  They should strive to protect children from a violent and unwholesome environment.

  1. (News Gathering and Reporting on Children) Journalists should neither interview nor photograph children under the age of 13 without obtaining consent from their parents or guardians.  Additionally, journalists should not encounter or take photo¬graphs of children at school or institutions without consent from the parties responsible for the children.

  2. (Sex Crimes and Children) Reporters and editors should not reveal the identity of children in cases where they or their families are involved in sex crimes.

  3. (Reports on Kidnapping) In covering kidnapping cases, reporters and editors should extend their help for a safe return of kidnapped children.  In particular, when children are in the hands of the kidnappers, journalists should comply with the requests from the families and law-enforcement agencies for restriction in news reports.

  4. (Protecting Children from a Harmful Environment) Journalists should be especially careful not to create a harmful environment for children by such means as glorifying or reporting excessively detailed descriptions of violence, prurient interest, or uses of drugs.

XIV.  Improper Uses of Information

Journalists should not misuse the information obtained in the line of their news gathering for their personal, their relatives', and their acquaintances' interests.  Nor should they transfer such information to other agencies or individuals.

  1. (Reporting on Stocks) Journalists should not engage themselves in the reporting on the stocks and bonds owned by, or related to the interest of, themselves, their relatives, and other acquaintances.

  2. (Dealings of Stocks and Bonds) If journalists have reported recently, or have plans to do so in the near future, on the information about certain stocks and bonds, they should not involve themselves in the commercial transactions of such stocks and bonds directly or indirectly.

  3. (Transactions on Real Estate) Journalists should not utilize the information obtained in the course of news gathering or in any other professional line of duty for profiteering from real-estate transactions or other personal profit-making schemes.

XV. Dignity of Journalists

News media and journalists should behave and conduct themselves with decency, dignity, and with high standards of professional conduct becoming to their social status as public media and respected professionals.

  1. (Bribery and Entertainment) News media and journalists, in relation to their news gathering, reports, commentary, and editing, should not receive economic advantages from the parties of vested interest in such forms as monetary offerings, entertainment, free trips, expenses for news-gathering trips, commercial goods, coupons, and expensive mementos.  Exceptions under this guideline include the sample copies of books to be used for review writing and the samples of commercial goods intended for a general promotion.  Such commercial goods, once received, ought to be used for some public interest.

  2. (Exercising Collective Influences) Journalists should not behave collectively or organize groupings for objectives other than facilitating joint news gathering, promoting good will among themselves, or pursuing common professional interests.  They should not exercise influence collectively upon their beats or other news sources like businesses.  Moreover, they as collec¬ti¬ves should not receive monetary offerings or undue entertain¬ment from their news sources.

  3. (Paying Cash for News) Journalists should not resort to unethical means to obtain news and information, such as offering cash to criminals and other antisocial figures.

  4. (Reporters and Advertising Sales and Promotion) News media should not impose the tasks of drawing advertising or circu¬la¬tion promotions upon the newsroom employees such as reporters and editors.  Even if news media should do so, newsroom employees should not comply with such demands.

XVI. Defining the Public's Interest

The public interest defined under the present Standards of Practice for the Code of Press Ethics may include, if needed, the areas relevant to the following:

  1. (National Security) National security, social order, and general welfare.

  2. (Public Safety) Public health, public safety, and environmental protection.

  3. (Exposing Crimes) Measures against antisocial crimes and grave unethical conducts.

  4. (Misinforming the Public) Measures against individuals' and groups' statements and behaviors that are likely to result in misinforming and misleading the public.

The Korean Newspapers Association, the Korean Newspaper Editors Association, and the Journalists Association of Korea hereby ratify the Code of Press Ethics and its Standards of Practice, and adopt them as their rules of professional conduct.