S. Korean lawmaker loses seat over Samsung wiretaps

Featured Korea - February 18th, 2013

A South Korean lawmaker who exposed corruption within Samsung Electronics Co. has forfeited his seat in parliament.

The country’s top court ruled Roh Hoe-chan had violated communications law when he published incriminating wiretaps of conversations between officials of the conglomerate on the Internet. The conviction disqualifies Roh from being a lawmaker and comes with a suspended prison sentence.

“Unlike distributing press releases to journalists, uploading messages on the Internet allows an easy access to anybody at any time,” the court said in explaining its decision, adding that the media publishes select information “with responsibility” rather than providing the public with “unfiltered access”.

Roh – leader of the Progressive Justice Party – first brought up the “Samsung X-File” in 2005 which included conversations between an aide to Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee and Lee’s brother-in-law that were illegally recorded by the government’s intelligence service during the 1990s.

Roh published the transcripts of the conversations that revealed bribes allegedly paid by the conglomerate to prosecutors, politicians and presidential candidates.

The investigations into the X-File centered around the illegal nature of their recording and release.

South Korean lawmakers are protected by an immunity that allows them to speak freely in the National Assembly without being sued for libel or prosecuted for other charges. But the Supreme Court ruled that it did not apply to lawmaker’s actions in cyberspace, according to The Associated Press.

Roh criticized the court’s ruling as “anachronistic”, saying that any citizen can easily distribute or publish information online.