Posts tagged National Security Law
A former officer in South Korea’s military reserve has been arrested on charges of passing documents to a North Korea agent, according to South Korean media reports.
The individual, who was only identified as a 37-year old with the family name of “Jeon,” was arrested under the National Security Law for allegedly passing information to North Korea on five occasions between November 2011 and January 2013, said the Joong Ang Ilbo.
Jeon first made contact with an agent working for North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau in late 2011 when he was running an business that collected cyber money from online games, said The Korea Herald. More >
South Korea’s top court has upheld the acquittal of a free-speech activist for retweeting North Korean tweets, according to several local media reports.
Park Jung-geun, a Seoul-based photographer, was arrested under the country’s anti-communist National Security Law for a series of tweets posted in late 2010 and early 2011. They included retweets from Uriminzokkiri, a China-based website with close links to the regime in Pyongyang, and some in which Park had substituted his own face in revolutionary imagery (see below).
The app, iJuche, was developed and published in late 2013 and was highlighted on NorthKoreaTech earlier this week. That publicity was apparently enough to get it blocked.
“I just got a call from a person at Apple informing me that iJuche has been found to be in violation of South Korea’s “National Security Law” and has been removed from the South Korean App Store,” said Peter Curtis, the developer of the app.
Users in South Korea that have already downloaded a copy of iJuche, or those with App Store subscriptions in other countries, should still be able to access news through the app, but new users won’t find it available for download in the Korean App Store.
South Korea’s National Security Law is a decades-old law that bans anti-state acts that endanger national security. In recent years, this has been used to ban the redistribution of North Korean propaganda on the Internet.
That means many websites from North Korean and those sympathetic to the country are blocked from local Internet users. It’s also been used to prosecute local Internet users who re-distribute North Korean content, sometimes by simply posting it on a website.
The law has many critics who maintain it restricts freedom of speech and doesn’t belong in a modern, developed society like the South Korea of today.
To-date, most of the sites and services blocked under the law have been those in Korean, although late last year a portion of the NK News website was also cut off from South Korean Internet connections.
KCNA Watch, a service developed by New Zealand-based Frank Feinstein, collates the daily output of KCNA from its website and makes it easy to navigate and search. It’s often easier to find articles on KCNA Watch than through the official KCNA website, and Feinstein’s site maintains the original versions of stories.
The importance of that feature was highlighted last month when KCNA deleted hundreds of articles mentioning Jang Song Thaek, the purged uncle of Kim Jong Un. The articles remain available through KCNA Watch.
Despite living in one of the most wired societies in the world, South Korean Internet users enjoy a “partly free” Internet due to government censorship of content, according to the results of a global survey on Internet freedom.
Censorship of content, which includes many websites that carry North Korean content, has shot up in recent years.
The government’s own figures show 25,706 items were blocked in the first six months of 2013, compared to 39,296 sites in all of 2012. Five years ago in 2008, just 4,731 sites were blocked.
The censorship led Freedom House to score the country 32 points in its annual Internet freedom ranking. The score runs from 0 to 100 with a lower number signifying more freedom. South Korea’s score is a rise of 2 points from its score of 34 points last year.
The nation comes in position 20 on the ranking of 60 countries, equal with Brazil. North Korea is not included in the survey.
The score partly reflected the South Korean government’s attitude towards North Korean content.
Users are blocked from viewing websites based in North Korea or many of the pro-regime sites based in other countries. Censorship is particularly strong of Korean-language content and mirrors the government jamming or North Korean radio signals, much of which takes place under the name of the National Security Law.
Attempts to access banned content are re-directed to a “warning” page.
The report includes an outline of the online review and censorship process carried out by the Korea Communications and Standards Commission.
Meetings are held every two weeks at which commissioners discuss flagged cases, which include content found by monitors and submitted by Internet users. The content runs the gamut from pornography to political discussion and the commissioners make recommendations on what should be deleted or blocked. Compliance is almost universal, even though the recommendations are not legally binding.
File this one under business as usual. North Korea was again ranked second-to-last in Reporters Without Borders’ annual press freedom index while South Korea continued to drop down the ranking.
The Paris-based press censorship watchdog ranked North Korea as 178th in its survey, just one rank above Eritrea.
“Kim Jong-un’s arrival at the head of the Hermit Kingdom has not in any way changed the regime’s absolute control of news and information,” the organization said in a statement.
North Korea and Eritrea have occupied the bottom two positions in the survey since 2007. Prior to that year, North Korea was ranked bottom from 2002 to 2006.
The survey looks into the availability of private media outlets, the ability to which journalists can question authority, professional journalism training, and whether the government or major companies hold sway over the media.
North Korea’s media is all tightly state controlled and no private media sources exist within the country.
North Korea, China (173rd), Vietnam (172nd) and Laos (168th), all ruled by authoritarian parties, still refuse to grant their citizens the freedom to be informed. The control of news and information is a key issue for these government, which are horrified at the prospect of being open to criticism. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, who succeeded his father Kim Jong-il on 30 December 2011, appears to rule in concert with the military junta. — Reporters Without Borders, January 29, 2013.
Across the border, South Korea saw its rank fall from 44 to 50.
Benjamin Ismaïl, head of Reporters Without Borders’ Asia-Pacific Desk, told me the drop is partially due to the prosecution of Chung Bong-ju, a politician who was jailed for spreading false rumors during an appearance on the Naneun Ggomsuda podcast.
South Korea was also marked down for general online censorship, notably the security law that restricts information about North Korea, and the unlawful termination of journalists and breach of Editorial independence, he said.
“Another reason is the climate of self censorship and pressure that journalists expressed in South Korea, when responding the questionnaires,” said Ismaïl. The questionnaire answers carry more weight in the survey because they “define the structural situation of press freedom in South Korea, while the statistics measure more ‘volatile’ data.”
Park Jung-geun, a Seoul-based photographer and free-speech activist, has received a 10-month suspended prison sentence for retweeting North Korean tweets.
The case, one of several that has drawn international attention to South Korean Internet censorship, has been going on for the better part of a year and was being closely watched for its interpretation of how South Korea’s National Security Act extends to Twitter.
The law targets those who “praise, encourage, disseminate or cooperate” with anti-social groups, in this case the North Korean government. Access to many North Korean websites and other Internet resources are blocked to South Korean Internet connections under the law.
Blocking Twitter is considerably more difficult, partly because even if official tweets are blocked the same mechanism wouldn’t automatically stop South Koreans from seeing retweets of the same messages.
Park, who was released on bail after the sentencing, was accused of retweeting around 100 messages from the Uriminzokkiri Twitter channel. Park didn’t deny sending the messages but said they were intended as satire. In one message, he sent out a remixed version of a North Korean propaganda poster with a soldier’s face replaced with his own (image, see right.)
The judge accepted that some of the posts were parodies, according to The New York Times, but said that taken as a whole the posts were “supporting and joining forces with an antistate entity.”
North Korea remains high on the list of enemies of the Internet, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said Monday in an annual report on Internet censorship.
The country was listed alongside Bahrain, Belarus Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam as a home to the world’s most repressive online regimes.
The news won’t come as a surprise to anyone that follows North Korea. The country has the world’s harshest restrictions on Internet use and an almost total ban on access. Only a handful of the country’s 24 million people are allowed access, and then it’s only to operate propaganda websites or harvest technical and educational manuals, books and materials for domestic use.
Reporters Without Borders also singles out South Korea’s increasing use of the National Security Law to clamp down on anything online considered “pro-North Korean.”
The report highlights a previous article on this blog noting Police submitted 80,449 requests to the Korea Communications Standards Commission for the removal of online postings in 2010 compared to just 1,793 in 2008.
The law, which the group calls “obsolete and arbitrary” has also been used to arrest two Internet users: Park Jeong-geun and Kim Myung-soo. The arrests and the law, which dates to 1948, recently brought South Korea some international attention through several U.S. media reports.
Last week a South Korean court handed down a suspended prison sentence to a former military officer for running a “pro-North Korea Internet community.” Local media said the man, identified only by his surname Bang, was sentenced to two years in jail, suspended for three years. Bang ran a website and uploaded 379 postings that were favorable to North Korea, the court heard.
Far from free speech, the judge in the case, Shin Woo-jung, was quoted by The Korea Times as saying, “Bang’s activities could possibly become a threat to the [South’s] system of liberal democracy.”
North Korea has again been ranked the second-worst country in the world for press freedom by Reporters Without Borders. The Paris-based organization has consistently ranked the DPRK at the bottom of the world in terms of press freedom for the last decade.
“It is no surprise that the same trio of countries, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea, absolute dictatorships that permit no civil liberties, again occupy the last three places in the index,” it said in the survey.
The news should come as no surprise to North Korea watchers. The government holds absolute control over the media, which delivers a centrally composed message through TV, radio and newspaper platforms. No independent media is permitted, citizens are prohibited from accessing foreign media and have no ability to connect to the Internet.
In North Korea (178th), although news and information was able to move across its borders to a greater extent, no one knows whether this will continue under Kim Jong-un, the son and heir of Kim Jong-il. The dynastic succession, the dominance of the military machine and the government’s desire for power give no grounds for optimism. — Reporters Without Borders, Press Freedom Index 2011-2012
A handful of shortwave radio stations target the country and are believed to be listened to by a small number of people with illegal radios. Additional information — most often DVDs of South Korean TV dramas — is smuggled across the border with China. Those paths were highlighted in a report published by RSF in late 2011.
South Korea was ranked 44th in the survey, a drop of two places from 2010.
Reporters Without Borders ranks each country according to a press freedom score, which is derived from answers to questions about press issues in each country. South Korea scored 12.67 in the latest survey, an improvement from the 13.33 scored in 2010 (a lower score means more press freedom) but the figures are not directly comparable because scoring criteria was changed.
Reporters Without Borders didn’t respond to requests to elaborate on the issues that contributed to South Korea’s 2011 ranking.
South Korea was blasted in the previous survey for its increasing use of the National Security Law to remove Internet content associated with North Korea.