Samsung Sues Journalist For Satirical Article

This is journalist Michael Breen. On Christmas Day 2009, he published a satirical column in the English-language Korea Times newspaper. Four days later, Samsung sued Breen, his newspaper, and its top editor for $1 million.

The column in question referenced Samsung's past bribery scandals and made light of its executive hubris. It was a small piece of satire—based on a large amount of truth—but Samsung's heavy-handed response could empty Breen's savings and land him in jail:

In its suit, Samsung said the column used a "mocking tone" to add "baseless, malicious and offensive false information to criticize" the firm.

After Samsung complained, the paper ran two clarifications, one of which Breen says he was told by editors was written by Samsung.

Legal experts here say the case underscores the considerable power wielded in South Korean society by such mammoth corporate conglomerates, known as chaebols, which are dominated by top officials, often related, who are treated here as near-royalty.

Obviously South Korea operates under a different legal system than we do in the US, including much stricter defamation laws. But Samsung is very much a global company. And while attacking Breen for aggressive satire may deter other Korean humorists from impugning Samsung's reputation, this bald attack on the basic freedoms of speech and of the press could do untold PR damage worldwide. At least, one hopes it does. [LA Times, Thanks Andrew!]