Thursday, November 01, 2007

[The Hankyoreh, October 31 2007] Internet is silent as police crack down on political writing

Alleged election law violations spur authorities to issue summonses to netizens

Ahead of the presidential election, the Internet in South Korea is silent, despite its usually robust flurry of activity. Summonses have been issued by the police against netizens who have posted articles and videos in relation to the election on the Internet. The excessive police crackdown on the views expressed through the Internet is being criticized by netizens and the academic community as a threat to freedom of expression on the net.

A citizen of Ulsan, 51, who asked to remain anonymous, received a summons from the Yeongdeungpo Police Station in Seoul on October 16. According to the police, the user-created content posted on his personal Internet site violates election law. The citizen said, “I just posted one video clip that had been floating on the Internet. I have been operating a blog for six years but this is the first time that I have received a summons.”


Some netizens have begun to stage demonstrations against these measures. A political portal named Surprise and netizens posting articles on this site have rejected requests by the National Election Commission to delete their articles. Instead, tens of thousands of articles protesting against the commission’s measures have been posted on its Internet bulletin board.

These measures have been taken following an election law banning people from posting or screening content that could influence the election, which either supports or opposes a particular candidate, and is effective 180 days ahead of the election.

According to the election commission, though its efforts have been in vain, it has called on the National Assembly to rewrite the existing election law due to the objections of the GNP, which has a negative perspective on campaign-related Internet activity. Part of the GNP’s sense of adversity may be due to unpleasant memories of the previous presidential election, in which its candidate Lee Hoi-chang lost the race.

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