Allies of President Yoon Suk-yeol are attacking what they see as an existential threat to South Korea, and they are mincing few words. The head of Yoon’s party has called for the death sentence for a case of "high treason.” The Culture Ministry has vowed to root out what it called an "organized and dirty” conspiracy to undermine the country’s democracy.

In this case, the accused is not a foreign spy, but a South Korean news outlet that has published articles critical of Yoon and his government.

The president, a former prosecutor, is turning to lawsuits, state regulators and criminal investigations to clamp down on speech that he calls disinformation, efforts that have largely been aimed at news organizations. Since Yoon was elected last year, police and prosecutors have repeatedly raided the homes and newsrooms of journalists whom his office has accused of spreading "fake news.”