Statement of Korean Civil Society on the 2024 AI Seoul Summit

By 2024/05/21 No Comments

We urge the Korean government and other governments to develop robust international norms to protect citizens’ safety and human rights from the risks of artificial intelligence


The AI Seoul Summit will be held on May 21-22. It is a follow-up to the AI Safety Summit held in November 2023 in Bletchley Park, UK. We believe that the idea of increasing global awareness of the risks of AI and discussing ways to protect the safety and human rights of citizens is a worthwhile endeavor. On the occasion of the AI Seoul Summit, we, the undersigned civil society organizations in South Korea, would like to express the following expectations and concerns of Korean civil society for this meeting.

As the temporary hype around generative AI that followed ChatGPT’s launch in late 2022 subsides, there is a growing international consensus on the social concerns and risks of AI. At the G7 Summit in Hiroshima in May 2023 and the AI Safety Summit in Bletchley, UK in November, participating nations recognized the potential risks AI poses to human safety and human rights, affirmed the importance of transparency and accountability in the development and use of AI, and expressed a commitment to work together to establish international rules. On March 21, 2024, the UN General Assembly also adopted a resolution on promoting “safe, secure and trustworthy” AI systems for sustainable development. In this resolution, the UN General Assembly also emphasized the importance of respecting, protecting, and promoting human rights in the design, development, dissemination, and use of AI. We welcome these positive international moves and believe that it is time to move beyond abstract principles to more concrete and effective norms. We hope that the AI Seoul Summit will provide an opportunity to further discuss and develop these discussions on international norms for AI.

It is important to recognize that international norms for AI should not be driven by a few developed countries alone. One of the themes of the AI Seoul Summit is “inclusion,” and Minister Lee Jong-ho said, “We will explore ways to share the benefits of AI and bridge the gap, and advance the discussion on how AI can be served while respecting cultural and linguistic diversity.” In order for this to be truly inclusive, developing countries and marginalized populations will need to be respected as actors in the governance of AI, not just as beneficiaries or consumers. In this context, it would be beneficial to discuss international norms for AI in a more open forum where all countries and diverse stakeholders from around the world can participate equally, rather than in an elite club of a few developed countries.

We have serious concerns that the AI Seoul Summit is being run in an opaque manner that inadvertently undermines the value of ‘inclusion’ by excluding civil society, which has a vital stake in shaping the norms of AI in a society, contrary to its stated goal of bringing together multi-stakeholders from around the world. The official online notice of the AI Seoul Summit does not adequately disclose how the summit will be organized and who the relevant stakeholder groups are. Furthermore, it is regrettable that civil society organizations critical of the South Korean government’s AI policies were not even invited to the meeting. The lack of transparency in the consultation process of norms itself makes it difficult to gain public trust in the resulting AI norms.

It is also a concern that the South Korean government is not taking practical measures to prevent the risks and abuses of AI. The Ministry of Science and ICT is contradicting itself by saying that, on the one hand, it needs to prevent abuses of AI such as deep fakes, but on the other hand, the reason why there is no penalty clause in the AI bill currently pending in the National Assembly is that “excessive regulation may stifle the development of the industry.”  It is hard to see how imposing measures to control the risks of AI is excessive regulation. It is also unclear how the risks and abuses of AI can be prevented without such safeguards.

The European Union has already passed its own AI act. The United States is also moving forward with legislation to regulate AI, with the executive branch taking the initiative to issue an executive order that could substantially regulate AI. In South Korea, we believe that the 22nd National Assembly should enact substantive legislation to regulate the risks of AI and protect the safety and human rights of citizens. We also call on governments to develop AI norms at the international level to prevent AI companies from circumventing domestic regulations.


May 20, 2024

Stop Healthcare Privatisation and Achieve Free Healthcare
Technoloy, Media & Culture Committee, Cultural Action
Lawyers for a Democratic Society – Digital Information Committee
Institute for Digital Rights
Korean Progressive Network ‘Jinbonet’
People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy