September 16, 2022
SEOUL – Police launched an investigation over a satirical posters of President Yoon Suk-yeol near the presidential office in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. The artist could be charged with violating public goods but is unlikely to be tried for defamation given past cases.
Yongsan Police Station in Seoul said that posters mocking Yoon were posted at a bus stop near the Samgakji station on Tuesday and launched an investigation.
The posters, which show Yoon wearing a mask undoing the front of his royal robe, and his crotch is covered by a round sign containing the face of first lady Kim Keon-hee with a red diagonal line similar to a no smoking sign.
The poster also included the words meaning “Doodle as much as you like. We will remove them soon. Please do not remove them.”
Satirical artist Lee Ha said on his Facebook account that he posted 10 posters. The posters have since been removed.
This is not the first time for Lee to post such satirical posters. He worked on satirical content during former Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations. In 2017, Lee was fined 2 million won ($1,437) by distributing thousands of leaflets satirizing former President Park for violating the laws of outdoor advertising and minor offenses.
He is among some who were charged after posting posters mocking presidents in the past.
In October 2010, university lecturer named Park Jung-soo satirized former President Lee Myung-bak by drawing mice in promotional materials for the G20 summit. He was tried on charges of damaging public goods.
Park claimed to have “satirized the government with graffiti,” but the Supreme Court rejected Park’s appeal, which resulted in a fine of 2 million won.
Most recently in 2019, under the former Moon Jae-in administration, college student Kim compared the Moon government to North Korea and posted a poster in the university that showed Moon bowing to Chinese President Xi Jinping. He was fined 500,000 won in the first trial for trespassing, but the second trial overturned this and acquitted him.
There was no case where the president directly filed a lawsuit for defamation. The crime of defaming the head of state was abolished in criminal law in 1988.
But Lee being found guilty of a crime is still possible as charges such as property damage and intrusion into public buildings can be applied.
Some criticize the police for being too obedient to the presidential office because it is rare for an intelligent crime investigation team in the police to be dispatched just because posters are attached to bus stops without permission.
In the US and Europe, where political satire is active, even goods caricaturing incumbent presidents are sold. Also, pictures and composite photos funnily depicting the president are frequently posted in media outlets, but it is hard to find cases where they are punished legally.
Pop culture critic Kim Heon-sik said it is unnecessary to punish the satirists. “Presidents are public people and the people could express their opinions. I think it is a democratic society only when criticism could be made against power.”