Freedom in the World 2022 - South Korea

/ 100
Political Rights 33 / 40
Civil Liberties 50 / 60
Last Year's Score & Status
83 / 100 Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.


South Korea’s democratic system features regular rotations of power and robust political pluralism, with the largest parties representing conservative and liberal views. Civil liberties are generally respected, though the country struggles with minority rights and social integration. Legal bans on pro–North Korean activity affect legitimate political expression, and members of the press can face pressure from the government over their coverage of or commentary on inter-Korean relations. Corruption is also a persistent problem, with scandals implicating successive governments and executives from the country’s largest companies in recent years.

Key Developments in 2021

  • COVID-19 transmission in South Korea persisted, with a series of spikes in case numbers in July, September, and December, and preventative measures were adjusted accordingly. The government was criticized for its relatively slow acquisition of vaccines, but about 81 percent of the population was vaccinated by mid-December.
  • Despite numerous efforts, President Moon Jae-in was largely unsuccessful in reviving inter-Korean relations during the year. Communication hotlines that had been severed in 2020 were restored in July, but the North Korean government was unresponsive for a period after its demands to cancel planned US–South Korean military exercises in August were ignored. Communications were restored again in October.
  • In August, South Korean forces evacuated 391 Afghans from Kabul as part of the larger US-led military withdrawal. South Korean authorities accepted Afghans who had worked for the country’s embassy and other state agencies, but instead of receiving refugee status, they were designated as “special contributors.” While the decision was explained as an attempt to avoid the discrimination and resistance South Koreans often harbor toward refugees, it raised questions about the Afghans’ access to the government assistance and permanent residency normally afforded to refugees.

Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 4 / 4

The 1988 constitution vests executive power in a directly elected president, who is limited to a single five-year term. Executive elections in South Korea are largely free and fair. Moon Jae-in of the liberal Democratic Party (DP), also known as the Minjoo Party, won a 2017 snap presidential election following the impeachment of former president Park Geun-hye. Moon took 41 percent of the vote, followed by Hong Jun-pyo of the conservative Liberty Korea Party (LKP) with 24 percent and Ahn Cheol-soo of the centrist People’s Party with 21 percent. About 77 percent of registered voters turned out for the election.

While voters were not unduly pressured by electoral authorities, Kim Kyoung-soo, the governor of South Kyŏngsang Province, collaborated with blogger Kim Dong-won to manipulate the dissemination of 80,000 news articles so that social media platforms would portray Moon more positively. Governor Kim was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison for the scheme in January 2019; the sentence was upheld in July 2021, and he was eventually forced to leave office.

In October 2021, DP presidential candidate Lee Nak-yon appealed the results of the DP’s primary election, which Lee Jae-myung won with 50.29 percent of the vote. Ballots for candidates who dropped out during the primary were not counted in that total; doing so would have reduced Lee Jae-myung’s share to under 50 percent and forced a runoff vote. Lee Nak-yon’s appeal was rejected, and Lee Jae-myung was set to face the conservative People Power Party (PPP) nominee, Yoon Seok-youl, in the March 2022 general election. The two presidential candidates made corruption allegations against each other and threatened to pursue charges if elected.

In April 2021 subnational by-elections, two metropolitan mayoralties and two municipal mayoralties were among the 21 positions contested. The PPP won both metropolitan mayoralties, along with 13 of the 19 other positions. In October, Busan mayor Park Heong-joon was indicted on charges of making false statements during his campaign in April. Also that month, prosecutors declined to indict Seoul mayor Oh Se-hoon on the same charges, saying that statements he had made while campaigning did not violate election law.

A2 0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 4 / 4

The unicameral National Assembly has 300 members serving four-year terms, with 253 elected in single-member constituencies and 47 through national party lists. In the April 2020 legislative elections, the DP won 180 seats, while the PPP won 103. Smaller parties and independents captured the remainder. Voter turnout was expected to drop due to the pandemic, but special safety measures were implemented, leading to a turnout of 66.2 percent, the highest in 28 years.

Allegations of voter disenfranchisement, election fraud, and Chinese interference surfaced after the 2020 elections but were dismissed for lack of evidence. Pandemic-related shutdowns of embassies and consulates around the world prevented more than 87,000 citizens living overseas from voting.

A3 0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 3 / 4

Elections are managed by the National Election Commission, an independent nine-member body appointed for six-year terms. Three members are chosen by the president, three by the National Assembly, and three by the Supreme Court. While elections are generally considered free and fair, malapportionment has historically affected National Assembly constituencies, giving outsized voting power to thinly populated rural areas. A revised map adopted for the 2016 elections mitigated the problem, in keeping with a 2014 Constitutional Court ruling.

A law that took effect in April 2020 altered the formula for allocating the 47 proportional seats in the National Assembly, allowing the legislature to better reflect the national vote and giving smaller parties a better chance of winning seats.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 3 / 4

Political pluralism is robust, with multiple parties competing for power, though party structures and coalitions are very fluid. In addition to the two main parties, several smaller groups are represented in the National Assembly, as are a handful of unaffiliated members.

The National Security Law (NSL) bans pro–North Korean activities, and in one case—that of the United Progressive Party in 2014—the Constitutional Court dissolved a political party for violating the NSL.

B2 0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 4 / 4

There have been multiple transfers of power between rival conservative and liberal parties since the early 1990s, and the orderly election and inauguration of President Moon in 2017 after the impeachment of former conservative president Park Geun-hye reinforced this democratic pattern.

B3 0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 3 / 4

Family-controlled business empires known as chaebol dominate the country’s economy and have amassed significant political influence, which has historically protected their interests despite calls for reform. Corruption scandals involving chaebol bribery have affected almost all of South Korea’s former presidents. President Moon came to power promising to reform these large firms, but instead relied on chaebol to bolster the country’s domestic supply chains as it faced the continued economic consequences of a trade war with Japan and COVID-19.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) has been implicated in a series of scandals in recent years, including allegations that it sought to influence the 2012 presidential election and later conducted illegal surveillance targeting President Park’s opponents. In December 2020, the legislature passed a reform bill that limited the NIS’s mandate to collecting information related to North Korea and overseas interests and prohibited the agency from conducting domestic surveillance operations; responsibility for investigating pro-Pyongyang activities in South Korea was set to be transferred to the police by the end of 2023. Despite pressure from organizations like Human Rights Watch, the new law did not reform or repeal the NSL.

B4 0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 3 / 4

Although the country’s few citizens of non-Korean ethnicity enjoy full political rights under the law, they rarely win political representation. Residents who are not ethnic Koreans face extreme difficulties obtaining citizenship, which is based on parentage. North Korean defectors are eligible for citizenship, and Thae Yong-ho became the first to win a constituency seat in the National Assembly in 2020; another defector, Ji Seong-ho, won a seat through proportional representation.

Women enjoy legal equality but remained underrepresented in politics in 2021, holding 19 percent of the seats in the National Assembly and six seats in President Moon’s cabinet. A group of women lawmakers introduced a reform bill in 2019 that would reserve half of the legislature’s seats for women and require gender parity in parties’ candidate lists in future races. However, the bill made no progress in 2021.

C Functioning of Government

C1 0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 4 / 4

Elected officials generally determine and implement state policy without undue interference from unelected entities and interests.

C2 0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 3 / 4

Despite government efforts to prevent corruption, practices such as bribery, influence peddling, and extortion persist in politics, business, and everyday life, though investigations into and prosecutions of such acts are robust. The 2016 Kim Young-ran Act, or Improper Solicitation and Graft Act, establishes stiff punishments for those convicted of accepting bribes and applies to government officials as well as their spouses, journalists, and educators. In January 2021, the Corruption Investigation Office for High-Ranking Officials (CIO) was established to investigate corruption allegations against public officials including legislators, prosecutors, judges, and the president, with the authority to unilaterally indict police officers, prosecutors, and judges.

Ongoing investigations have examined allegations that public officials and employees related to the Korea Land and Housing Corporation (LH) engaged in speculative land purchases based on insider information, with the first warrant issued in March 2021. The suspects at year’s end numbered in the hundreds, including three National Assembly members. In October, a similar investigation was launched into the role played by an aide to Lee Jae-myung, the presidential candidate and outgoing governor of Gyeonggi Province, in a land development project in Seongnam. Amid growing anger over real-estate scandals, President Moon called for new legislation to combat conflicts of interest among public servants.

Samsung vice-chairman Lee Jae-yong was sentenced to five years in prison in 2017 for bribery related to former president Park’s administration; after a retrial, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison in January 2021, then released on parole in August after serving 18 months in total.

In 2020, a former aide to President Moon was arrested for allegedly accepting bribes and leaking information about a state inspection of a troubled hedge fund during his time in the Blue House. Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae ordered Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl to recuse himself from the matter, claiming that he had failed to conduct fair, thorough investigations into opposition politicians and prosecutors implicated in the case. The intervention was unusual and criticized as an abuse of power amid a wider dispute between Choo and Yoon that eventually led both to resign, in December 2020 and March 2021, respectively; Yoon went on to run for president on behalf of the PPP. In September 2021, the CIO opened an investigation into charges that Yoon had abused his power and meddled in politics while in office as prosecutor general.

C3 0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 2 / 4

The 1998 Act on Disclosure of Information by Public Agencies allows citizens and resident foreigners to request access to the records of public agencies, except those related to national security. Access to some documents, such as those pertaining to the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster, has been denied despite lawsuits seeking their disclosure.

President Moon pledged to fight corruption and improve transparency in the wake of his predecessor’s impeachment, but his administration suffered from a series of scandals involving the transparency of funding decisions, official statistics, and other matters.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in early 2020, the government acted with openness and transparency, promoting nationwide testing and contact tracing to contain the virus. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KCDA) provided public health guidelines and daily updates about COVID-19 cases, tests performed, and deaths. Spending decisions were also made transparently, as the National Assembly approved supplementary budgets to curb outbreaks.

Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 3 / 4

The news media are generally free and competitive, reporting aggressively on government policies and allegations of official and corporate wrongdoing. However, a defamation law authorizes sentences of up to seven years in prison or fines of up to 50 million won ($44,000), encouraging a certain degree of self-censorship, and journalists have faced political interference from managers and government officials.

News coverage or commentary deemed to favor North Korea can be censored and lead to prosecution under the NSL, and access to North Korean media is banned. In addition, the Korea Communications Standards Commission evaluates online content found by its staff or referred to it by other government agencies, and blocks or deletes the material according to vaguely defined standards, though most of the affected content is reportedly related to illegal sex work, pornography, gambling, promotion of illegitimate food and medicine, or other criminal activity.

In April 2021, new sales of founding North Korean leader Kim Il-sung’s memoir in South Korean bookstores raised controversy. The Unification Ministry evidently did not grant permission for the memoir to be available for public consumption, and the South Korean publisher, Kim Seung-kyun, faced possible prison time if he was found to have violated the NSL.

In July 2021, the DP proposed revisions to the country’s Act on Press Arbitration and Remedies, etc. for Damage Caused by Press Reports that would increase media responsibility for fake news. In August and September, both Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders criticized the draft amendments for being too broadly written and threatening freedoms of the press and expression.

D2 0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 4 / 4

Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution and generally respected in practice. In October 2021, however, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea stated that the suspension of a mosque construction project in Daegu was due to discrimination and prejudice.

Until recently, the military conscription system did not permit conscientious objection, and hundreds of men—nearly all of them Jehovah’s Witnesses—were imprisoned each year for refusing military service. A 2018 Constitutional Court ruling found that the government had to provide alternative forms of service for conscientious objectors, and as of June 2021, 1,419 of 2,173 objectors had gained approval to perform alternative service.

Coronavirus cluster cases that were traced back to churches led to restrictions on gatherings of large groups of worshippers through most of 2020 and 2021. The Shincheonji Church of Jesus was linked to more than 5,000 cases associated with the country’s initial outbreak and was sued by the city of Daegu for ignoring quarantine efforts. Its leader, Lee Man-hee, was arrested and indicted in August 2020, but in January 2021 he was acquitted of breaking public health laws.

D3 0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 3 / 4

Academic freedom is mostly unrestricted, though the NSL limits statements supporting the North Korean regime and restricts access to material related to North Korea. Separately, the 2016 anticorruption law subjects teachers and administrators to the same tight restrictions as public officials. Certain portrayals of sensitive historical issues—such as imperial Japan’s wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women—can be subject to government censorship or prosecution under the country’s defamation laws and other statutes.

D4 0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 4 / 4

Private discussion is typically free and open, and the government generally respects citizens’ right to privacy. However, the government’s capacity for surveillance remains robust. An antiterrorism law grants the NIS expansive authority to monitor private communications. The NIS, police, prosecutors, and investigative agencies can also access metadata without a warrant; this includes internet users’ national identification numbers, postal addresses, and telephone numbers.

The NSL restricts speech that is considered pro–North Korean. As of 2021, the Constitutional Court was reviewing the constitutionality of the law’s Article 7, which punishes those who praise North Korea’s regime or produce, carry, or distribute pro–North Korean materials, but the article has repeatedly been upheld in past cases. A proposal to repeal the law was introduced in the National Assembly in May. A number of South Korean citizens were charged with violating the NSL during 2021, though they were accused of offenses such as plotting to escape to the North, meeting and communicating with a North Korean agent, or receiving money and following orders from North Korean operatives.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 4 / 4

The government generally respects freedom of assembly, which is protected under the constitution. However, several legal provisions conflict with this guarantee, sometimes creating tension between the police and protesters over the application of the law. Bans on large public gatherings fluctuated throughout 2021 in response to the evolving threat from COVID-19.

Despite these restrictions, union rallies and antigovernment protests were held during the year, including large demonstrations in July and mid-August. Numerous police and bus barricades were set up along streets and squares in central Seoul, along with some checkpoints to deter protesters.

LGBT+ pride events have sometimes been disrupted by counterprotesters. Due to COVID-19 containment measures, the 2021 Seoul Queer Culture Festival was held online.

E2 0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 3 / 4

Human rights groups and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are active and generally operate freely, despite the risk of political pressure when they criticize the government or other powerful interests. Many South Korean NGOs rely on government grants even as they pursue independent agendas.

NGOs focusing on human rights in North Korea and on support for defectors came under intense scrutiny and pressure during the tenure of President Moon, who prioritized improving inter-Korean relations. The North Korea Human Rights Foundation (NKHRF), which was established by a 2016 law and was meant to provide financial support to human rights activists and organizations, has been largely inactive since its funding was cut by 93 percent in 2018. The Moon administration ordered a crackdown in 2020 on human rights activists who send balloons carrying leaflets across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), after North Korean authorities denounced the practice, and officials revoked the licenses of two organizations engaged in such activities; authorities raided the office of a balloon activist in May 2021. Lawmakers adopted legislation banning the transfer of information, goods, and money to North Korea without government approval in 2020, prompting nearly 30 human rights groups to file a constitutional complaint. In February 2021, four North Korean defectors announced their intention to sue Unification Minister Lee In-young for defamation, claiming that he had deemed defector testimonies to be “untrustworthy lies.”

E3 0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 4 / 4

Workers have the right to form independent unions and engage in strikes and collective bargaining. The country’s independent labor unions advocate for workers’ interests in practice, organizing high-profile strikes and demonstrations that sometimes lead to arrests. However, labor unions have diminished in strength over time, as a growing number of South Koreans work on a temporary or part-time basis. Workplaces with fewer than 30 employees are not obligated to establish or operate collective agreements, and major employers are known to engage in antiunion activity.

F Rule of Law

F1 0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 3 / 4

The chief justice and justices of the Supreme Court are appointed by the president with the consent of the National Assembly. Appointments are made based on recommendations from the chief justice, who is assisted by an expert advisory committee. The chief justice is also responsible for appointments to the lower courts, with the consent of the other Supreme Court justices. The president, the National Assembly, and the chief justice each nominate three members of the Constitutional Court. The judiciary is generally considered to be independent, but senior judges have been ensnared in corruption scandals in recent years.

Yang Sung-tae, who served as chief justice from 2011 to 2017, faced ongoing legal proceedings during 2021 after being accused in 2019 of manipulating high-profile cases in 47 instances to serve the interests of the administration and major businesses. Trials for several other judges who had been indicted for misconduct in 2019 have also moved forward, with at least three acquitted and two receiving suspended sentences.

In early February 2021, Lim Seong-geun, a senior judge at the Busan High Court, was impeached by the National Assembly for his involvement in a judicial scandal under the Park administration, becoming the first sitting judge to be impeached in the country’s modern history. However, the Constitutional Court, which reviews impeachments, rejected the move in October, as Lim had retired at the end of his term in late February.

F2 0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 3 / 4

Judges render verdicts in all cases. While there is no trial by jury, an advisory jury system has been in place since 2008, and judges largely respect juries’ decisions. Ordinary legal proceedings are generally considered fair, but the courts have sometimes been accused of denying due process and impartiality to defendants in NSL cases.

Former DP chair Choo Mi-ae was appointed as justice minister in 2020 after her predecessor was forced out over ethics violations. Choo repeatedly clashed with Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl over the management of cases, especially those involving former or current officials close to President Moon. Choo and Yoon resigned in December 2020 and January 2021, respectively, and a revised law preventing justice ministers from abusing their power over prosecutors concerning disciplinary measures took effect in January 2021. Lee Sung-yoon, chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, was indicted in May 2021 for allegedly abusing his power in 2019 to block an investigation into a potentially illegal exit ban imposed on a senior official.

F3 0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 3 / 4

Reports of abuse by guards in South Korea’s prisons are infrequent, and prison conditions generally meet international standards. In September 2021, civic groups accused immigration authorities of using excessive force against an asylum seeker in an immigration detention center.

Violent crime is relatively rare, but the country remains at war with North Korea, resulting in a heavy military presence in some areas and the constant threat of renewed combat. Minor incidents of violence near the de facto border are not uncommon. In May 2020, for example, North Korean guards reportedly fired at a South Korean guard post at the DMZ.

F4 0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 3 / 4

South Korea lacks a comprehensive antidiscrimination law. Members of the country's small non-Korean population face legal and societal discrimination, especially in the workforce. Children of foreign-born residents are systematically excluded from education and medical systems, though in April 2021 the government began granting temporary stay permits and related benefits to children of undocumented migrants who were born in the country. Separately, a mandatory COVID-19 testing requirement for foreign workers in Seoul was withdrawn in March amid concerns about discrimination.

Approximately 33,800 North Korean defectors have entered South Korea since 1998. While the government aims to integrate this group into society, defectors can face months of detention and questioning upon arrival. Some defectors have also reported abuse in custody and societal discrimination.

North Korean defectors do not need to apply for asylum using the same process as other applicants. Those from other countries are far more likely to have their claims rejected or mishandled by immigration officials. In 2021, only 3.3 percent of applicants were granted refugee status or humanitarian protection. A group of 391 Afghans who were evacuated to South Korea as part of the US-led troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in August were only granted “special contributor” status, having worked for the South Korean embassy or other state agencies. While the decision was explained as an attempt to avoid the discrimination and resistance South Koreans often harbor toward refugees, it raised questions about the Afghans’ access to the government assistance and permanent residency normally afforded to refugees.

Women generally enjoy legal equality but face significant social and employment discrimination. Women currently hold 5.2 percent of executive positions at publicly listed companies. They earned 35.9 percent less income than men in 2020, a larger gender wage gap than in any other member state of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); the gap has reportedly worsened during the pandemic. President Moon pledged in March 2021 to reduce “career interruptions” for women, though no legislation has been passed to support such efforts.

Sexual harassment of women in the workplace is common, and a number of political figures have been accused as part of the #MeToo movement. The newly elected mayor of Seoul, Oh Se-hoon, vowed to address sexual harassment in the government, announcing a zero-tolerance policy in April 2021. In October, 15 military officials were indicted on charges related to an attempted cover-up in the case of an Air Force officer who died by suicide in May, months after she alleged that a colleague had sexually assaulted her.

Same-sex sexual relations are not restricted for the general population, but soldiers who engage in such activity are subject to a “disgraceful conduct” provision of the Military Criminal Act and face two-year prison terms. While existing human rights legislation bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, it does not offer specific penalties for violations, and transgender people are not explicitly protected. In 2020, a transgender soldier, Byun Hee-soo, was forcibly discharged following her gender confirmation surgery. Byun filed a lawsuit, but died by suicide in March 2021; a court then ruled in October that her discharge should be reversed. A watchdog organization found that 65.3 percent of 588 transgender survey respondents had experienced discrimination in the previous year.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 4 / 4

Movement within South Korea and travel abroad are typically unrestricted, except for travel to North Korea, which requires government approval.

The government maintained some controls on movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic during 2021. Travelers arriving from abroad were required to undergo a 14-day quarantine and install smartphone applications to monitor their health status, and visitors from “high-risk” countries had to submit a negative COVID-19 test result to enter; foreigners who broke the rules faced denial of entry or deportation, and citizens who defied the rules faced fines and arrest. These measures were generally seen as legitimate and proportional to the public health threat.

G2 0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 3 / 4

South Korea fully recognizes property rights and has a well-developed body of laws governing the establishment of commercial enterprises. However, the economy remains dominated by chaebol that have colluded with political figures to pursue their own interests, and property ownership for individuals has become especially difficult due to soaring housing prices and restrictions on the construction of new homes.

G3 0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 3 / 4

Personal social freedoms are largely respected, and women and men generally have equal rights in divorce and custody matters, though same-sex marriage is not legal in South Korea. The country’s health system does not allow same-sex couples to register for health insurance as spouses, leading to a lawsuit in February 2021.

In keeping with a 2019 Constitutional Court ruling, abortion was officially decriminalized on January 1, 2021; it had previously been legal only in cases of rape, incest, threats to the pregnant person’s health, or designated disorders or diseases.

Domestic violence is common, despite laws designed to prevent such crimes. Legislation that would ban men with records of domestic violence or sexual crimes against children from inviting foreign women to immigrate for the purposes of marriage took effect in 2020, but many sexual offenses against children carry weak penalties. Also in 2020, lawmakers adopted a set of bills that strengthened punishments for online sex crimes, which have reportedly been on the rise.

G4 0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 3 / 4

Protections against exploitative working conditions are enforced by the authorities. Nevertheless, foreign migrant workers remain vulnerable to illegal debt bondage and forced labor, including sex trafficking. Migrant workers’ groups have denounced the employment permit system and legislation that makes it difficult for individuals to change their place of employment, which can expose workers to abuses such as reduced pay and long hours without adequate rest periods.

Civic, religious, and health groups have called for action to address the deaths of couriers from overwork—a problem that has been exacerbated by an increase in online shopping during the pandemic. Couriers typically lack the labor protections of full-time employees.

Women in South Korea are vulnerable to recruitment by international marriage brokers and sex traffickers. Although the government actively prosecutes human trafficking cases, those convicted often receive light punishments.