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Bloggers Affected By Iraq Video Ban
As Kim Seon Il's body returns home and Seoul braces for the political fallout, censorship takes hold
Todd Thacker (internews)     Print Article 
Published 2004-06-26 21:49 (KST)   
As of Friday, June 25, the Korean Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) began blocking access to servers hosting the Kim Seon Il beheading video in what has been interpreted as a move to "protect public morals." Affected are thousands of netizens who use and read blogspot.com, blogger.com, blogs.com and typepad.com, among other sites.

It is unclear how long the restrictions will be in place and there is no indication whether the government will expand its net on the embargo. The government has been severely critized for not acting on a telephone call from the Associated Press pointing out a video of a detained Korean called Kim Seon Il, which it received in early June.

With calls from the blogging community ranging from "Mr. Roh, tear down this wall!" to "Major censorship in South Korea," the consensus is that the government is undermining its long touted superior Internet culture.

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About 300 complaints have been logged with www.internet119.or.kr, formerly the Cyber Harmful Information Report Center. The Chosun Ilbo reported that on Friday 12 Koreans had been arrested for distributing the video of Kim's beheading via peer-to-peer connections.

The sudden crackdown by the MIC, which came without warning and is not mentioned on the English Web site, is in direct contravention of the Korean Constitution. The following is the article on free speech:
Article 21:
(1) All citizens shall enjoy freedom of speech and the press and enjoy freedom of assembly and association.
(2) Licensing or censorship of speech and the press, and licensing of assembly and association shall not be recognized.
(3) Facility standards of news services and broadcasts, and matters necessary to ensure the functions of newspapers shall be determined by Act.
(4) Neither speech nor the press shall violate the honor or rights of other persons nor undermine public morals or social ethics. Should speech or the press violate the honor or rights of other persons, claims may be made for the damage resulting there from.

"This is fascism!" shouted an entry in "Ruminations in Korea" by Jeff Harrison. "It must be impressed upon the Korean government that their plans to become the 'hub of Asia' will never be fulfilled or realized as long as they continue to abuse their power and authority to stomp on the civil rights and freedoms of the residents of Korea."

Longtime Koreaphile and blogger Oranckay wrote that he had contacted a MIC official Friday, registering his complaint and pointing out the hypocracy of taking action to prevent such graphic videos from Iraq being downloaded only when a Korean was involved.

Korean Netizens in a local PC bang
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"Is the government going to block sites every time anyone is beheaded in the future, just to be consistent?" asked Oranckay on his blog. "He said he would register my complaint to his superiors."

"I'm posting this blind," wrote BigHominid. "I'm currently unable to access my own blog directly ... If you're a reader in the States, you might not have any trouble accessing my blog, but if you're in South Korea, you're f***ed.

"About Joel" blogger Joel Browning wrote: "I have written several messages to the BBC and CNN in an attempt to get some sort of news about this out. Once again, if you haven't already I would encourage you to send an e-mail, in Korean or English or any other language you want to for that matter to the MIC."

Blogger Jeff Harrison (Ruminations in Korea) on the government's efforts to block access to the beheading video

In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, the communist government erected the Berlin Wall, not to keep the West Berliners out, but to keep the East Berliners inside and isolated from the alleged corrupting influences of freedom and capitalism. In 2004, at the height of the war on terror, the Korean government erected a cyber wall, not to keep the outside world from seeing what is happening in Korea, but to keep the Koreans isolated from the alleged corrupting influences of freedom, the truth about what happened to Kim Sun Il, the beheading video, and what the rest of the world is saying about it.

By making the uploading and distribution of the Kim Seon Il beheading video illegal, by arresting people for granting access to the video, and by blocking access not just to specific sites, but to entire domains where the video might be posted or linked to, the government is creating much more curiosity and interest in the video than there ever would have been otherwise. The government has created a situation where people desperately want to see what it is that the government doesn't want them to see.

The government is sending a very strong message that they do not trust the Korean people to think and behave rationally and reasonably. The government has decided to do the thinking for the people. Not only that, the government has taken the extraordinary step of removing the possibility for Koreans to decide for themselves.

In the USA, the freedom of speech and expression are two of the most precious freedoms we have. We may disagree with ideas, we may think that the ideas are vulgar, filthy, and disgusting, but we will not deny access to those ideas because some day, someone may try to stop us from expressing our ideas. The Korean government has stopped millions of citizens from hearing the ideas of others. They have stopped thousands of people from sharing their ideas with Koreans. Korean citizens should not stand for this. Koreans should be outraged.

The Korean government is dictating what you can and cannot see and dictating what you can and cannot read. The Korean government is suppressing the free flow of ideas and information. The only view of the Kim Seon Il murder that you may have is the one that the government tells you to have. This is fascism. This is no different that what the governments of China and North Korea are doing.

The Korean government should be ashamed of itself. Do they have any idea how repulsive these actions are to the rest of the world? This must stop.
The links to these blogs are accessible via www.unipeak.com and are as follows: Ruminations in Korea; BigHominid; About Joel --Ed.
©2004 OhmyNews

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