S. Korea convicts artist for satirical artwork of president

December 11, 2015
Pop artist Lee Ha's poster of former president Chun Doo-hwan (Korea Times file)

Pop artist Lee Ha’s poster of former president Chun Doo-hwan (Korea Times file)

By The Korea Times Seoul staff

The Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s conviction of a pop artist charged with putting up satirical posters of former president Chun Doo-hwan.

Lee Byung-ha, 47, known as Lee Ha, was given a suspended sentence of a 100,000 won (less than $100) fine. He was indicted on charges of posting 55 satirical illustrations of the ex-president in residential areas in Yeonhui-dong, northwestern Seoul, in May 2012.

The poster contains an image of Chun, in a prison uniform and handcuffs, holding up a check for 290,000 won. It depicts the situation in 2003 when Chun claimed he only had 290,000 won in the bank, so he could not pay the fine he was ordered to pay after being convicted of creating a 220 billion won slush fund from bribes collected during his term from 1981 to 1988.

Lee was summarily indicted but requested a proper trial, claiming “it was just to express freedom of art.”

In Lee’s first trial, the court ruled that “freedom of art can be limited by law for national security, maintenance of order or public welfare,” handing Lee the suspended sentence.

The second trial dismissed Lee’s appeal on the grounds that “it looks as though there were other means through which freedom of artistic and political freedom could be expressed.”

Lee was also charged for his satirical portrayals of politicians including former president Lee Myung-bak and incumbent President Park Geun-hye.