South Korean police launch investigation into fabricated video of President Yoon Suk-yeol

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Feb. 26, 2024 8:18PM GMT+9 Updated Feb. 28, 2024 11:08AM GMT+9

The South Korean police announced on Monday their pursuit of an individual suspected of producing a manipulative video featuring the country’s President, Yoon Suk-yeol.

During a press briefing, Cho Ji-ho, the commissioner of the Seoul Metropolitan Police, revealed that authorities have identified the username of the individual alleged to have uploaded the fabricated video. The police are actively investigating to uncover the suspect’s identity, delving into the nature of the criminal activities and the motives behind them. Further details were not disclosed by the Seoul Metropolitan Police, but officials confirmed to The Readable that a legal complaint had been lodged against the suspect for breaching the country’s defamation law.

Prior to the announcement, on February 21, the police had approached the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC) to request the removal of the counterfeit videos. The KCSC swiftly convened an urgent meeting on February 23 and resolved to restrict access to 22 instances of fabricated content. According to their statement, only one video was labeled as “fictional” in its title, while the remaining 21 were misleadingly titled “A conscious confession speech of President Yoon Suk-yeol,” potentially leading viewers to mistake them for authentic statements.

The commission clarified that all 22 cases contained identical video content, albeit with minor variations in editing, such as the text embedded within the footage. It is believed that these videos were crafted by combining various clips of President Yoon Suk-yeol from his 2022 presidential campaign, without the use of deepfake technology to alter them. The manipulated content featured altered statements; for example, twisting the original sentence from “For a lifetime, I have been executing laws against those who cause torment to South Korean citizens,” to a misleading “I have been executing laws to torment South Korean citizens.”

The KCSC justified their decision by highlighting that the videos were maliciously crafted through careful editing of the original content, which could mislead viewers even if they were labeled as fictional. The commission also considered the potential social impact of such deceptive content, concluding that the videos could lead to significant societal confusion. When The Readable inquired whether the content was created using deepfake technology, the KCSC responded via email that this topic was not addressed during their discussions. Instead, the focus of the commission’s deliberation was on the infringement of the country’s laws.

The presidential office has emphasized its commitment to taking decisive action against the counterfeit content. “The video is clearly fabricated content. It must be eradicated,” spokesperson Kim Soo-kyung declared during a briefing on February 23. “With the general election on the horizon, the office expressed an expectation for society to collectively work towards preventing the spread and creation of fake content,” Kim added.

The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang. This article was copyedited by Arthur Gregory Willers.

Kuksung Nam is a journalist for The Readable. She has extensively traversed the globe to cover the latest stories on the cyber threat landscape and has been producing in-depth stories on security and privacy by engaging with industry giants, foreign government officials and experts. Before joining The Readable, Kuksung reported on politics for one of South Korea’s top-five local newspapers, The Kyeongin Ilbo. Her journalistic skills and reportage earned her the coveted Journalists Association of Korea award in 2021 for her essay detailing exclusive stories about the misconduct of a former government official. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, a testament to her linguistic capabilities.