South Korea is poised to host the third Summit for Democracy next week, taking up a U.S.-led initiative aimed at discussing ways to stop democratic backsliding and erosion of rights and freedoms worldwide.

Seoul has released few details about who will be participating, but U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will lead a delegation.

"The summit also takes place this year at a critical moment during what has been called the year of elections," Kelly Razzouk, National Security Council senior director for democracy and human rights, told a briefing in Washington on Wednesday.

"We are at an inflection point," said Razzouk.

Participants are expected to highlight what they see as digital threats to democracy, including misinformation, artificial intelligence, and deep fakes.

"At this event, the government will share with the world the use of new technologies to benefit humans without hampering democracy and seek cooperation to that end," Kweon Ki-hwan, South Korea's deputy minister of foreign affairs, wrote in an essay on Thursday.

The U.S. will convene a meeting on the misuse of commercial spyware, Razzouk said.

"The misuse of commercial spyware has a monumental impact on the ability of brave individuals around the world to express themselves and their opinions," she said.

South Korea, which co-hosted the last summit with four other nations, also intends to seek youth participation and announce projects to support the challenges of the younger generation, Kweon said.

First held virtually in 2021 because of COVID-19 concerns, the summits have faced mixed reception, with rights activists questioning whether they lead to meaningful action, and past events overshadowed by controversy over their guest lists.

South Korea itself is facing increased questions over rights for minorities, particularly women and LGBTQ citizens, and press freedom.

"The recent behaviour of the Yoon Suk Yeol government has focused on dismantling social diversity and certain democratic traditions that Korean society has long agreed on," Yoon Chang-hyun, head of the National Union of Media Workers, said at a press conference on Thursday to highlight what they see as increasing government crackdowns on media.

Democracy in South Korea took a step backward since Yoon took office, the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden said in an annual report last week, citing legal cases against figures associated with the previous administration, and assaults on gender equality and freedom of expression.

Concerns about democratic backsliding in South Korea are likely overblown for the moment, and recent elections have been free, said Philip Turner, a former New Zealand ambassador to Korea.

But the country is in an "embarrassing hole" when it comes to gender discrimination and risks being left behind by other Asian countries that are expanding protections and rights for LGBTQ populations, he added.

"The summit is an opportunity for NGOs and others to put them on the spot and ask some hard questions," Turner said.

Kweon said South Korea's hosting of the Summit for Democracy "shows the nation's commitment to fully implementing its vision to become a global pivotal state contributing to freedom, peace and prosperity in the world." (Reporting by Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Hyunsu Yim; Editing by Michael Perry)