Local Election is the Cornerstone for Korean Democracy:
Striving for Hate Speech-free Local Election is a must
-NHRCK Chairperson’s Statement on the 8th Local Election-
The election campaign for the 8th local election in Korea officially began as of May 19.
In 2019, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea(Chairperson Doohwan Song, hereinafter the ‘NHRCK’ or the ‘Commission’) commented there need to be measures put in place to prevent the politicians from using the expressions which may arouse hate among the public, so as to promote the value of human dignity. In March 2020, in the weeks leading up to the 21st legislative election, the Commission asked for active support from the election candidates, the media and the civil society to make the 21st legislative election the ‘first hate speech-free election’.
Hate speech reinforces hatred towards a particular person or a group and prolongs inequality. Hate speech itself already sends powerful message and when it is used by the politicians, the message tends to carry more weight, has more social impact and causes greater repercussions. And these words and expressions which widely impact the society can be heard more often during the election campaigns, where the interests of the politicians more likely to clash.
From the 20th Presidential election day in March to 12 April 2022, the NHRCK launched an inquiry on the status of the ‘media coverage on the hate speech made by politicians’, with the coverage from January to March 2022. The Commission analyzed national and local daily newspapers, 5 broadcasting companies, 54 newspapers including technical journals, with the help of ‘Big Kinds’, the big data analysis system operated by the Korea Press Foundation.
The Commission found 3,351 cases of media coverage which included expression of hatred towards women, 39 towards the persons with disabilities, 96 towards the migrants. Most of the news media coverage were headlined with the words directly quoted from the politicians, which were based on the stigma and prejudice towards women, persons with disabilities and migrants. Out of all the news containing hateful terms, only 10 press releases raised the issue regarding hate speech and the hate speeches made by the politicians.
For the news articles containing hate speech on women, in particular, undiluted derogatory terms used by the politicians to describe women were carelessly presented on paper. The issues concerning the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family were oftentimes belittled and mocked. The term ‘beongeori(the speech-impaired)’ was used thoughtlessly to describe the stance of not actively responding to a particular event. The derogatory terms reinforcing stigma attached to the migrants were used without criticism on many occasions.
Hate speech not only violates the rights of the members of the groups subjected to the derogatory terms, but it also hinders the process of forming more democratic and inclusive society. The politicians, the agents working to realize the value of democracy, carry heavier responsibilities to refrain from disseminating hate in the society and fight against the use of derogatory terms than the common people.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea calls for the political parties, the candidates of the 8th local election, the campaign supporters and the public to actively participate in the process of making the upcoming election the event where the fundamental values of democracy flourishes, by putting an end to using hate speech.