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Beheading Video Fallout Casts Wide Net
MIC orders large swaths of Internet domains blocked to 'protect public morals'
Todd Thacker (internews)     Print Article 
Published 2004-06-28 17:21 (KST)   
A preemptive ban by the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) on whole domains hosting sites that contain or actively seek out the Kim Seon Il beheading video has entered its second week, amid protests of censorship from bloggers and concerned citizens.

Thousands of netizens are being denied access to sites including blogspot.com, blogger.com, blogs.com and typepad.com, among others. Many domestic and foreign users have protested, saying they have no connection with the distribution of the video and are being punished for acts of a voyeuristic few.


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Affected netizens argue that the Korean government is undermining its long touted superior Internet culture and the nation's image as a bastion of freedom of speech compared to the restrictive policies of neighboring China.

An MIC official said the blanket ban would be in place "until things stabilize." The ministry's English Web site, however, makes no mention of the embargo.

Letter from Information Communication Ethics Committee to U.S. Bloggers


To website manager or the person in comparable position
As you already know that Kim Sun-il, Korean civilian who had worked in Iraq was ruthlessly killed by extreme militants in Iraq
That is a desperate shock internationally let alone to his family and Koreans.
Most Koreans are currently participating in candle demonstration in public places both to lament over his death and to bless the world peace.
Information Communication Ethics Committee (ICEC) established on the purpose of taking actions to harmful content to minors in addition to illegal content online has tried to stop the distribution of Kim Sun-il beheading video footage. Unfortunately ICEC keeps on hearing that many internet users unintentionally download and view the video via p2p regardless of Koreans or foreigners.
The distribution of the video would kill his family once again.
Since you are an expert of computer technology, you can deal with immature users' impulsiveness. In the light of my previous experience I believe that it is possible to block or delete the Kim Sun-il beheading video only with your cooperation.
I unyieldingly request you to help us.
Thank you in advance.

ICEC staff in Korea
--------------------------------------------------------
Information Communication Ethics Committee (ICEC)
5th Fl., Dong-ah Tower, 1321-6 Seocho-dong
Seocho-gu, Seoul, Korea
TEL : +82 2 3415 0114 FAX : +82 2 3415 0198
The ministry ordered domestic Internet providers including Hanaro Telecom, KT and Thrunet to block access to sites hosting or soliciting the video.

The video of Kim Seon Il's beheading first came to light last week just hours after Seoul confirmed his body had been found some 35km outside of Baghdad. Koreans who had waited anxiously over the course of three days for word of his safe release were devastated.

The macabre public nature of a downloadable video of the Korean translator and missionary's murder prompted an internal MIC ethics committee to meet in an emergency session. It ordered the ban in order to "protect" Korean citizens from further "anguish."

Korea began a 24-hour monitoring of all traffic and blocking access to tens of overseas sites that host the video. Some bloggers in Korea complain that their sites are being blocked for simply commenting on the incident and offending others, who in turn reported them to the Korean authorities.

Much of the information on the dissemination of the video, which is being compiled into a site blacklist, is being forwarded by concerned Korean netizens, who alert www.internet119.or.kr, formerly the Cyber Harmful Information Report Center.

The ministry said it is also looking into targeting the search engines of portal sites - making it impossible to utilize search terms related to the video.

More than a dozen Koreans have been arrested by the cyber crime division of the National Police Agency for distributing the video of Kim's beheading via peer-to-peer connections.

Outrage from the blogging community here was vociferous, with blog headlines ranging from "Mr. Roh, tear down this wall!" to "Major censorship in South Korea." The tight-knit community maintains that it is not interested in viewing or transmitting the video.

Blogger Jeff Harrison compared the "Korean cyber wall" to the 1961 Berlin Wall.

"(It's) to keep the Koreans isolated from the alleged corrupting influences of freedom, the truth about what happened to Kim Seon Il, the beheading video, and what the rest of the world is saying about it," he told OhmyNews in an email.

He pointed out that by blocking entire domains, the government is fuelling curiosity in the video, enticing people who otherwise would not seek it out.

"The government is sending a very strong message that they do not trust the Korean people to think and behave rationally and reasonably," Harrison warned. "They have stopped thousands of people from sharing their ideas with Koreans. Korean citizens should not stand for this. Koreans should be outraged."

On Sunday, an OhmyNews reader going by the handle "Sugar Shin," wrote:
"The government is now taking action, cause they think a majority of the Korean populace would agree with the sites blocking. And I think most South Koreans don't see the danger of future governmental censorship stunts. ... The government tries to soothe the rightfully angry soul of many Koreans about the disgusting murder of Mr. Kim Seon-Il, but (politicians, with their) background struggle for more democracy and freedom of speech in the times of press-censored dictatorships should have shown more democratic maturity and liberal wisdom in dealing with the beheading video matter."

The government has been severely criticized 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.
©2004 OhmyNews

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