Lawsuit planned over South Korea’s blocking of North Korea Tech website

A warning seen by users attempting to access North Korea Tech from South Korea. (Photo: North Korea Tech)

The battle over the South Korean government’s blocking of this website is heading for the courts.

After losing an appeal at the Korea Communication Standard Commission (KCSC) last week, I am working with the Korea Internet Transparency Reporting Project and Open Net Korea to file a lawsuit against the KCSC to overturn the blocking.

North Korea Tech is one of thousands of websites that the South Korean government blocks from access. Most concern pornography, drugs or gambling but a smaller number are banned because they contain North Korean content. They are almost totally sites that are run by the North Korean government or relay its propaganda in a way that promotes and glorifies the nation and its ruling regime.

North Korea Tech is different. Any North Korean media carried on the site is there because it’s the subject of an article or analysis on the site and readers are being given access to the original material on which the report is based.

I completely reject the notion that the site glorifies the totalitarian regime in charge of North Korea and “benefits the enemy,” thus the fight to have the site unblocked.

The Korea Internet Transparency Reporting Project and Open Net Korea have issued the following news release:

KCSC’s Blocking of the ‘North Korea Tech’ website Is Illegitimate.

Open Net Korea and Korea Internet Transparency Reporting Team will file the lawsuit against KCSC.

On May 3, the Korea Communication Standard Commission (KCSC) dismissed the website operator’s objection to their blocking of a website titled ‘North Korea Tech’ (http://northkoreatech.org). Since March 24, KCSC has blocked the website which is specialized in reporting the North Korean technology information run by an U.K. journalist Martyn Williams, for the reason that it is ‘praising, inciting, or glamorizing the North Korean activities’, violating the article 7 of National Security Law. Now that the objection is dismissed, access to North Korea Tech continues to be unavailable in South Korea.

North Korea Tech is a media entity, and its expertise in analyzing the NK’s technology issue is acknowledged world-wide. Therefore, many articles on this website have been frequently cited by not only the South Korean media but also various international media such as The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and BBC. It analyzes and reports on the issue of NK’s technology (especially IT) status for the academic or media reporting purposes, based on various sources not only NK media but also South Korean and international materials. Needless to say it does not have any purpose of ‘praising, inciting, or glamorizing the North Korean activities’.

KCSC found the entire website to be violating the National Security Law, apparently because there are some links to, citation of, or introductions of the material published by North Korea. However, citing North Korean materials for the academic or press reporting, not the purpose of benefiting the enemy, is not the activities banned by the National Security Law. Furthermore, regardless of whether some contents can be blocked, blocking this whole website which has high value of expertise and journalism, is obviously illegitimate, seriously violating the freedom of speech and the right to know.

The members of KCSC did not point to any specific ‘unlawful’ content during the deliberations and did not even discuss the purpose of operating that website. This KCSC’s blocking decision to North Korea Tech only for the reason of partly containing the North Korean information, will ironically be an object of ridicule in the international society that degrades the level of the free flow of information on internet in South Korea to that of North Korea.

Open Net Korea, the civil organization for the Internet freedom, and Korea Internet Transparency Reporting project team will file the lawsuit against this KCSC’s decision.

* Media contact : Jiwon Sohn (museofu@gmail.com)

2 Comments on "Lawsuit planned over South Korea’s blocking of North Korea Tech website"

  1. Any joy on this, Martyn?

  2. People in South Korea can access your website by using VPN, just like me. I am a Chinese and I am using a VPN service to access Google in China.

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