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Korea laments more restricted internet

New Freedom House report says online censorship is increasing

Park Jeong-geun was charged for re-tweeting satirized versions of North Korean propaganda messages Park Jeong-geun was charged for re-tweeting satirized versions of North Korean propaganda messages
  • Stephen Hong, Seoul
  • Korea
  • September 26, 2012
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South Korea has found itself soul-searching over the past few days after US-based Freedom House placed the country at the same level as Uganda in an assessment on global internet freedom.

Following Monday’s report, domestic news media have drawn attention to the country’s poor showing with Uganda still notorious in South Korea for its undemocratic behavior dating back to the days when dictator Idi Amin was deemed to be on an authoritarian on par with former president Park Chung-hee and the Communist North’s Kim Il-sung.

Freedom House gave South Korea a lowly rating of 34 out of 100 (with zero the best), lower than last year when it scored 32, for blocking internet content deemed favorable to North Korea.

“South Korea boasts of being one of the most connected countries in the world as well as a fledgling, vibrant democracy,” Freedom House said. “Recent years, however, have been marked by increased policing of the online environment.”

Censorship and detentions had increased, it added, blaming the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC), the main body responsible for blocking content.

The president appoints all nine members of the KCSC, which has only operated for four years.

Jeong Min-kyung, an activist for the Korean Progressive Network that provides computing solutions to civil society, said government claims that the KCSC is independent were bogus.

He cited a case early this year in which photographer Park Jung-geun was indicted for reposting propaganda messages from the North Korean government in which he swapped out images to include himself holding a bottle of whiskey instead of a rifle.

South Korean detectives raided his photography studio in Seoul.

“It was humiliating and ludicrous to have to wear a straight face and explain all my jokes to the detectives,” the New York Times quoted Park as saying at the time.

A government official who declined to be named said the Freedom House assessment was incorrect and that it had failed to grasp the overall situation in South Korea.

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