Asia: Korea (South)

Press Ethics Code

Current Status: unknown

(Adopted by the Korean Newspaper Editors Association, chiefly the editors of daily newspapers and news agencies).

The social mission of Korean journalists is extremely important, all the more so because the nation is confronted with the task of reconstructing the homeland into a democratic, unified, indepenĀ¬dent country.

Thoroughly aware of this, Korean journalists have organised the Korean Newspaper Editors Association chiefly among the editors of daily newspapers and news agencies across the country and have adopted the Press Ethics Code in order to rectify press ethics and firmly uphold their journalistic integrity.  Journalists have pledged themselves to be faithful to the Code and to fulfil the people's expectations of good journalism.

Not only editors but all engaged with the press shall abide by this Code.  Since this Code calls for voluntary implementation, there is no authoritative organisation which enforces it.

However, if newspapers and journalists are unfaithful to the Code, they will surely lose public support and thereby endanger their very survival.


Freedom of the press, one of the most basic rights of human beings, must be protected so as to satisfy the people's right to know.  The press has complete freedom to report and comment.  Although any violation of the public interest is subject to control under general law, there can be no law restricting or interfering with the freedom of the press.  Freedom of the press, of course, includes freedom to criticise and to oppose any such law.


The press, being a social instrument, has a special public position, and journalists command a unique social standing.  However, this position will exist only if the press gives the public a true picture of affairs and the public uses this picture as the basis for their judgements.

Therefore, the most important responsibility of the press is to faithfully serve the public interest based on the realisation that the public relies upon the press. This responsibility also constitutes the most important reason for preserving the press' special public position.

The press displays its special position concretely by being always dauntless in the pursuit of justice, courageous in opposing justice and in siding with and speaking for the weak.

Reporting and Commenting

The speedy and faithful dissemination of facts is vital to reporting. Therefore, the facts subject to reporting must be limited to those whose value can be verified in terms of their source and content.

In commenting, a journalist's independent beliefs and opinions should be expressed fairly and courageously, in particular any prejudice that deliberately distorts or evades the truth should be guarded against.

Journalists should be sincere toward the public by being as thorough and accurate in reporting and commenting as possible.


The press should stand on the principle that all persons are equal before the law, and should not be swayed by any political, economic or other social prejudices.  At the same time, the press cannot be used privately for individual interests running counter to the public interest or for worthless or immoral purposes.  Journalists cannot escape responsibility simply because others ordered or requested special treatment.

Honour and Freedom

The press should respect the honour of others and cannot violate individual rights or sentiments out of curiosity or evil intent.  In parallel with the demand for the freedom of the press, the press should have the magnanimity to recognise the freedom claimed by others.


A high degree of dignity and pride is required of the press because of its public position.  In particular, vulgar conduct or any activity resulting in vulgarity cannot be tolerated.

Guidelines for reporting

  1. Interpretation of the provisions of Articles 3 and 4, Chapter "Honour and Freedom of Others," Guidelines for Implementation of the Press Ethics Code (October 13, 1961):

a. Offenders caught in the very act shall be excepted from the "principle that in reporting criminal cases, the accused shall be treated as not guilty until convicted", Article 3, Chapter "Honour and Freedom of Others," Guidelines for Implementation of the Press Ethics Code.

b. The term "minor" mentioned in Article 4, Chapter "Honour and Freedom of Others," Guidelines for Implementation of the Press Ethics Code, means those who are anything from one day to 20 years in age.

c. In the provision that the name and picture of minor suspects and the accused and sexually assaulted women shall not be disclosed, Article 4, Chapter "Honour and Freedom of Others," Guidelines for Implementation of the Press Ethics Code, no number of home address in the case of Seoul and other cities, nor name of village in provincial areas can be disclosed.

d. In giving addresses, no number, "tong" and  "pan" in Seoul and other cities, nor village "pan" and number in other provincial areas can be disclosed. (Supplement, May 26, 1965)

2.  Notice in Reporting sexually assaulted women (No. 3768, Korean Press Ethics Commission, October, 2, 1979):

Regarding sexually assaulted women, the Commission made the ruling on May 26, 1965 that "in giving address, no number, 'tong' and 'pan' in Seoul and other cities, nor village, "pan" and number in provincial areas can be given." Again on October 2, 1978, the Commission ruled that even if an address is not given directly, any information leading to the inference of the victim's address, such as a case in which the culprit is identified with the remark, "he assaulted a woman of his village," or in which the location of the victim's office is given or the names of her relatives are identified, is also subject to control.

  1. Interpretation of the Provisions of Articles 1 and 2, Chapter "Honour and Freedom of Others," Guidelines for Implementation of Press Ethics Code (February 1.5, 1963):

a.  No individual's honour shall be damaged unless it is for the sake of the public interest.

b. Even if it is for the public interest, no undue personal attacks or low language can be used.

c. The same is true for individuals, public officials, offices or organisations, and of juridical persons, non-juridical persons or groups.

  1. Reporting of suicides (January 8, 1967):

In consideration of the effect the reports of suicide have on society, the Commission makes the following rules as the criteria for such reports, based on the spirit of the provisions of Article 3, Chapter "Independence," Guidelines for Implementation of the Press Ethics Code.

a. The name of the medicine and amount of the lethal dose used in suicide shall not be given.

However, such may be reported in incidents related with crime or carrying a special social significance.

b. Cruel methods of suicide shall not be described.

c. Since the words "group suicide" can be an inaccurate expression in case it involves children and other family members not willing to die, accurate expressions shall be used depending on the incident.

At no time should such incidents be reported in a way that caters to the public's curiosity nor should they be beautified.

  1. Notice on Reports about stimulants (No. 3744, Korea Press Ethics Commission, April 19, 1979):

Since the giving of the names of stimulants such as Sekonal and adhesive glue in reporting the cases of adolescents using stimulants is apt to influence innocent adolescents into making similar mistakes, an instruction was handed out not to make public the names of such medicine or material.

  1. Report on kidnapping incidents (August 30, 1967):

a. Reports on kidnappings should be made with an emphasis on the return of the kidnapped victim.  Such reports shall in principle be withheld so long as the victim remains in the hands of the abductor.

However, reports may be made when such reporting is considered necessary for the rescue of the victim.

b. The whole picture of the kidnapping incident may be drawn once the incident has come to a solution.

  1. Reports on suspects (September 6, 1967):

a. Excepting those caught in the act or those against whom evidence is salient, the address, name picture and occupation of suspects shall not be disclosed.

b. No reports that prompt the assumption that suspects are guilty shall be made without express evidence.

c.  No picture of the brutal scene of an on-the-spot investigation of a criminal case shall be released.

  1. Reports on Protection of surrendered agents and those informing on communist agents (February 14, 1968):

a . In reports about those who have reported espionage agents and communist guerrillas, pseudonyms shall be used and their pictures, workshops and addresses shall not be made public.  Address, however, down to city, country or ward can be disclosed.

b. The provision of the preceding paragraph shall also be applied to surrendered espionage agents and communist guerrillas.  However, if government authorities make official announcements or if there exists the need to inform the people, they shall be made public.

9.     Report without Credits (July 26, 1964):

The following violates the provisions of Article 4. Chapter "Dignity," Guidelines for the implementation of the Press Ethics Code:

a. Use of distributed articles after replacing its by-line name with that of one's own correspondent.

b.  Use of the whole of distributed articles without giving any credit.

c.  Use of distributed articles after altering leads.

d. Use of a plagiarised part of wire service articles in one's own article.

  1. Children's Newspapers or Columns and Advertisement on Medicine for Venereal Diseases (June 1, 1966):

In a newspaper where advertisements for medicines for venereal disease are carried, no children's column shall be used.