Jun 1, 2016

How the Korean Government Monitors Bloggers in Korea

A recent news report raised concerns as to whether Korean police followed proper process concerning the regulation and monitoring by the government of internet blogging.  

Last week, A South Korean blogger was reportedly ordered by local police to take down posts featuring North Korean propaganda.  According to the account, an unidentified blogger was told to remove nine posts written between 2007 and 2011 that featured alleged pro-North Korea statements because the blog postings were considered harmful to young people. 

The article, also, mentioned that experts approached in connection with the story said that such an order, without a ruling from the Communications Commission that is charged by law to regulate internet postings would be beyond the scope of police powers.  

Korea has a history of regulating internet postings beginning with the first internet regulation ever created - entitled the Telecommunications Business Act (TBA).  The TBA was enacted over 20 years.

The TBA created a regulatory body called the Internet Communications Ethics Committee (ICEC) which was charged with monitoring internet activity and making recommendations for removal of content, and could even pursue criminal prosecutions against persons who made "unlawful statements" via the internet.

The ICEC could also block foreign websites and did so regularly.  ICEC's criteria were the basis for the Ministry of Information and Communications formally enactment of an Internet content rating system.

The ICEC eventually became the Korea Internet Safety Commission (KISCOM), which took over responsibility for overseeing the Internet Content Rating Service. This Service allows websites to evaluate themselves on the danger they present to minors. KISCOM regulates the Internet by ordering internet service providers to block access to: 
  • "subversive communication" 
  • "materials harmful to minors" 
  • "cyber defamation" 
  • "sexual violence" 
  • "cyber stalking;" and 
  • "pornography and nudity"
Korea also regulates internet content associated with or emanating from North Korea based on the National Security Act - even attempting to access a site blocked under this act is a serious offense punishable by up to seven years imprisonment.

In 2008, the Korean government created the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC), which is its notes "stands to ensure the public responsibility and fairness of broadcast contents while cultivating a culture of safe internet communications through which safe and useful information is readily accessed."

The KCSC has the power to order internet service providers to block access to content it finds to fall within the categories discussed earlier.  In 2014, the KCSC deleted about 23,000 Korean webpages, and blocked another 63,000 sites.  It also has the power to suspend or delete any web posting or articles for 30 days after a complaint is filed. 

With such a rigorous regulatory framework and multiple levels of review, reports from YTN that police in the Namyangju district of Gyeonggi Province told a blogger - without prior authorization from the appropriate agency to delete postings does not seem in line what law and we suspect that the appropriate agencies may make their opinions heard on this issue very soon.

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Sean Hayes may be contacted at: SeanHayes@ipglegal.com.  Sean is co-chair of the Korea Practice Team at IPG Legal. He is the first non-Korean attorney to have worked for the Korean court system (Constitutional Court of Korea) and one of the first non-Koreans to be a regular member of a Korean law faculty. Sean is ranked, for Korea, as one of only two non-Korean lawyers as a Top Attorney by AsiaLaw.  Sean is known for his proactive New York-style street-market advice and his aggressive and non-conflicted advocacy.  Sean works with some of the leading retired judges, prosecutors and former government officials working in Korea.

Sean's profile may be found at: Sean C. Hayes