June 23, 2008

South Korea to Act Over Internet Campaign Against Media

Text of report in English by South Korean newspaper Chungang Ilbo website on 22 June

[By Lee Ka-young, Kim Seung-hyun, JoongAng Ilbo: "Justice Ministry To Take Action on Boycott Threats"]

The Justice Ministry ordered prosecutors over the weekend to watch for Internet users posting harmful information about corporations with the intent to defame the firms' reputations.

"The level of threats that people are making against the corporations over the Internet and by telephone to prevent them from posting ads in the (top three) newspapers, which netizens do not agree with, has gotten out of control," the Justice Ministry said.

Netizens have been using boycott threats to pressure companies advertising with the JoongAng Ilbo, Chosun Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo to pull their ads. Protesters say the papers are pro-Lee Myung-bak [Yi Myo'ng-pak] and dismissive of the candlelight vigils against US beef.

Prosecutors said that they will take into account how much damage the Internet users are causing and that they can even be arrested if it is determined the damage is serious.

Reacting to the campaign, the Grand National Party said it was no better than the suppression of press freedom that occurred during the years of past dictatorship.

"Some people say that this campaign is part of a consumer rights movement, but it is more like a new type of media oppression using the Internet," said GNP floor leader Hong Chun-p'yo [Hong Joon- pyo]. "In the past, the authoritarian government suppressed the media, and now some citizens are trying to suppress the media using collective power. That is not right."

Hong said his party will form a detailed plan to stop the boycott campaign against the newspapers.

The opposition United Democratic Party disagreed.

"It is nonsense that the GNP is calling the Internet movement a violation of press freedom," said UDP spokeswoman Cha Young. "They should stop trying to regulate opinions on the Internet."

Originally published by Chungang Ilbo, Seoul, in English 22 Jun 08.

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