Lesson From Jailed South Korean Blogger: Don't Be Too Good With Your Predictions

from the it'll-come-back-to-bite-you dept

There’s been a fascinating story coming out of Korea over the past few months, concerning the (formerly) anonymous online commentator who went by the name Minerva. He accurately forecasted some of the early days of the financial collapse last fall, and suddenly the press talked him up and everyone wanted to know who he was. Then he claimed that the Korean government had told companies to stop buying US dollars — forcing the government to put out a statement denying this was true. Then, following a few weeks of searching, he was arrested for spreading false information and (a week later) his identity was revealed (along with a background that shows he wasn’t particularly well connected or knowledgeable — he likely made some lucky guesses).

But, it does raise questions about the fine line between making predictions and spreading false information. Because he had been so accurate with his earlier predictions, many started to assume that he was well-connected, and any future predictions he made would also be equally accurate. It seems that, once again, the old saw that “past results is no guarantee of future performance” was ignored. Now, there may be a difference in terms of how the information was presented — in terms of whether he specifically claimed to know for certain that the Korean government had done what he said, as opposed to just predicting that it was about to happen — but it seems like the line between a prediction and “spreading false information” gets pretty thin once everyone thinks you know what’s going on better than anyone else.

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Comments on “Lesson From Jailed South Korean Blogger: Don't Be Too Good With Your Predictions”

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DCX2 says:

Re: Re: There is a difference

I can see Mike’s point of view. It’s one thing if you properly qualify your statement so that a moron in a hurry would know you’re just guessing, but it’s another thing to add language implying “guess” when you’re exploiting the fact that people think your answers are more than “guesses”, though proof of such exploitation would be necessary.

Imagine walking up to somebody with a gun and saying “I’m not murdering you, honest” and then pulling the trigger. Do your words and any derived disclaimers matter more than the actions?

Lonnie E. Holder says:

Re: Re: There is a difference

Evil Mike:

To the extent information is available, apparently there was no stating of guessing. Here are a couple of paragraphs from the link (http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/01/11/asia/korea.php?page=1)…

The commentary that got him in trouble was his claim on Dec. 29 that the government issued an “emergency order” to financial firms and major corporations to stop buying U.S. dollars in a dire effort to arrest the fall of the Korean won. The government was forced to issue a denial to calm the market, though officials had previously appealed to large companies to stop hoarding dollars.

Kim Yong Sang, a judge at the Seoul Central District Court, approving Park’s arrest, said his blogging “affected foreign exchange markets and the nation’s credibility.”

Park apologized and withdrew his Dec. 29 posting. Many of Park’s predictions proved wrong, and he often did not substantiate his claims. He also lied about his background. He once created a mythic aura by describing himself as an aging farmer capable of spewing out financial jargon. In his last posting on Jan. 5, he said he had a master’s degree from overseas and had worked on Wall Street.

To arrest Park, the prosecutors invoked a rarely used provision in the country’s online communications law that calls for up to five years in prison for those who “spread false information in public with an intention to harm public interest.”

Hulser says:


This reminds me of a scam I saw on 60 Minutes or similar show a while ago. The scammer starts by calling a large number of people, telling half of them the stock of company XYZ is going to go up the next day and the other half that it’s going to go down. If the stock goes up, he calls the first half back, again splitting the group in half, “predicting” that the stock will go up for some and down for others. At the end of a few days of the same process, the number of people has gone down dramatically, but whoever is left thinks he’s a genius for acuratly predicting the performance of stock XYZ for so many days in a row. They practically beg the scammer to take their money to invest.

Just another example of why past results are no guarantee of future performance.

Anonymous Coward says:

I know this complicated sparky, but…

1. The American Press and Media has been amazingly responsible with performing research on any opinion pieces before giving it any value or writing any type of news-worthy story about it. This may be different in Korea, where, who knows if they source from such reputable (sic) news outlets such as “The Daily Kos” or “The Onion”.

2. Remember that part about making false predictions? Didn’t the stock market collapse? Wouldn’t Korea have been in a better position if it didn’t invest in dollars? I am a loss here.

3. Isn’t this an op-ed about about some strange, obscure event that happened in Korea? In America there’s a thing called “free press” and “freedom of speech” which allows dissent.

4. Mike, it appears you’re a blogger, and just wrote an opinion piece about making false predictions that have no bearing in your reality. So have you just called for your own self abolition? Well, we can agree on that anyway.

gene_cavanaugh (user link) says:


I once heard of a scam that worked like this:
Someone sent out a lot of mail predicting “something” in the markets; half going one way, half the other. When half of the mail proved true, he did it again with that half. By the time he was down to a few dozen people, he had been “uncannily” right “many times”, then he hit them up for money.

The Bedazler (user link) says:

The Power of Social Networking

Ladies and gentleman the internet is dead…welcome to the age of socialnet. When one man who is not well connected or knowledgeable can but his entire country in high alert due to his blogging ; in this case Minerva vs. South Korea; I have to say to you everything as we know them has come to pass. Even the way we get our information whether by facts or predictions.


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