South Korea: National Security Law Muted North Korea Related Discussions

A South Korean Twitter user, Park Jeong-Geun has been arrested since January 11, 2012 for re-tweeting messages such as “Long Live General Kim Jong-Il” in Twitter. Under the curry National Security Law (NSL), Park would face up to seven years imprisonment.

Park's profile picture in Twitter.

Amnesty International called for Park's release yesterday, February 2, 2012. “This is not a national security case, it's a sad case of the South Korean authorities’ complete failure to understand sarcasm,” Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director said in its statement.

Park's arrest is very controversial as he and his political party (Socialist Party) has been very critical of North Korea. But such ludicrous charge is not an isolated case. Two months ago in December 2011, another netizen, Kim Seung-kyu was prosecuted for reposting articles, songs and other available information about North Korea on his blog and calling the NSL a government attempt to suffocate the people. The materials that he posted are widely accessible in western media.

The South Korea NSL was passed 60-years ago in 1948 to protect the country from its wartime enemy, North Korea. It prosecutes those who “praise, disseminate or cooperate with anti-state groups” if such acts endanger democracy and national security.

In the past, the NSL has been used to investigate left-wing activists. Between 2005-2009, there were an average of 58 cases a year. However, “since Lee Myung-bak came to power in 2008, the Korean government re-activated the law to investigate not just left-wing activists but also ordinary people who are talking about North Korea online”, said Yoon Ji-Hye, the Korean Alliance of Progressive Movements to NPR in December 2011. Investigation has surged to 91 in 2010 and by 2011 August, there were already 150 cases.

Deletion of webpages has been increased from an annual figure of 1,500 in 2008 to 14,430 in 2009 and 80,449 in 2010. (The graph below is from North Korea Tech)

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