South Korea Arrests Man For Re-Tweeting Oppressive North Korean Government; Wins Ultimate Irony Award

from the isn't-imitation-the-best-form-of-flattery? dept

I have to admit, there are times when I find South Korea immensely confusing when it comes to technology. They appear to embrace the hell out of the more modern view of the music business. They’re heavily invested in their population’s internet connectivity. Yet they can also get goofy when it comes to intellectual property, such as when they decided patenting their military uniforms was a surefire way of keeping the North Korean military from dressing alike. They’ve also put in place a mildly enforced version of 3 strikes legislation to appease American entertainment companies.

Admitting all that, however, my surprise has boiled over upon learning that a South Korean man was found guilty of “praising, encouraging or propagandizing” North Korea under their “National Security Law” for tweets associated with his account. His crime? Well, mostly retweeting North Korea’s official Twitter account, tweeting out a couple of links to North Korean propaganda songs, and tweeting nonsensical nonsense (is there any other kind?) about their neighbors to the north. Oh, and he also mercilessly mocked the hell out of this country he’s accused of supporting as well.

Mr. Park denied praising the North Korean government and said his intention was to lampoon the North Korean regime. In a North Korean post that he tweaked and sent out on Twitter, he replaced a swarthy North Korean soldier’s face with a downcast version of his own and the soldier’s rifle with a bottle of whiskey.

A freedom of speech advocate, who authorities arrested for mocking governments and generally being a smartass? Huh, you know what? That sounds like something that might happen in North Korea. Just to wrap this up in a neat little bow for everyone, South Korea arrested a man for exercising speech because they incorrectly thought he was propagandizing a despotic country. The irony is so thick here, I can hardly breathe.

In his ruling, the presiding judge, Shin Jin-woo, acknowledged that some of Mr. Park’s posts were parody. But he said Mr. Park’s overall acts were tantamount to “supporting and joining forces with an antistate entity.” The justice said his court suspended the prison term, however, because Mr. Park promised not to repeat his act.

You might read this and think that the court was lenient, suspending his jail sentence. I call BS on that. It isn’t lenient to agree not to jail someone in exchange for giving up their rights. Now, lest you think that this speech right doesn’t exist in South Korea and I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, that’s under intense debate.

The United Nations and human rights groups have called on South Korea for years to repeal or revise the law, which the country’s past military dictators had used not only against people suspected of being spies but also against political dissidents. But the law has proved resilient in a society where many fear North Korea, which has launched military provocations against the South in recent years.

See, South Korea today is a Republic. They’re supposed to enjoy rights like the freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Oh, freedom of the press, that reminds me, I have to mention the final ironic cherry on top of this irony sundae.

The Twitter account whose posts Mr. Park forwarded is run by the North Korean government Web site, Uriminzokkiri, which the South Korean news media regularly cite in their reports.

That’s right, kids. Mr. Park was found guilty of disseminating information from a North Korean Twitter account…that the South Korean press regularly uses to disseminate information. You can’t make this stuff up.

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Comments on “South Korea Arrests Man For Re-Tweeting Oppressive North Korean Government; Wins Ultimate Irony Award”

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korean-american says:

S. Korea and N. Korea are still at war, technically

Well, I do find this reaction over the top, you still have to remember that S. and N. Korea are still at war. Every year, there are still small skirmishes where young soldiers, who get drafted for mandatory service unlike here, lose their lives. Believe it or not, the tensions are still there. Especially, the older crowds (40+ years old) still call the North Koreans “red commies,” in Korean slang. You can’t really blame them. Their parents or relatives were affected by the devastating Korean War in 1953. Also Korean people are under constant threats of a disastrous war. Imagine more than 11,000 units of artillery aiming at Washington DC. That is exactly the situation that Seoul is experiencing. Mind you Seoul has more than 10 million people. There’s a military simulation that shows within two hours of a full-blown war between the N. and S. Seoul will be demolished completely and millions of people will die.

So, of course, government will be very strict about anything related to N. Korea. Is retweeting an enemy country’s gov’t tweet a crime? Well, in this case, it could be. Korea has tightly knit society with a very strong sense of collectivism. This is a country that came out of the 1997 financial crisis extremely fast by collectively selling personal gold jewelries and heirlooms to alleviate the national debt. This is a country where if your professor takes the students out for dinner, the students should pretty much order what the professor orders as a unity. So if he orders burger with fries, you better order the same thing. Or else, you will be the only one ordering something different, and the prof won’t be so happy with you.

So, of course, as a person who was educated in the Western world for most of the world, I find this action over the top, but as a Korean-American who has learned about the Korean culture, mentality, and history, I kind of understand why they are so strict about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: S. Korea and N. Korea are still at war, technically

This is a country where if your professor takes the students out for dinner, the students should pretty much order what the professor orders as a unity. So if he orders burger with fries, you better order the same thing. Or else, you will be the only one ordering something different, and the prof won’t be so happy with you.

what if i order this burger with fries

Sibauchi (user link) says:

This would be hilarious if it wasn't so terrible

I am a South Korean living in Seoul, and while I am aware of the history and reasoning behind this ruling and the National Security Act, I still think it’s severely outdated and not really helpful to national security. Former and current Supreme Court Justices have questioned the Act, not only progressive-leaning judges such as Park Shi-hwan but also conservatives like Ahn Dai-hee and Kim Byung-ro, the latter who was the first Chief Justice of South Korea and opposed the National Security Act from its legislation. There are already laws for punishing spies and terrorists and other means to strengthen national security, so not only is the Act quite unnecessary, but unconstitutional as it essentially restricts freedom of expression (which is provided by Constitution Article 21). The vague wording and untouchable nature of the Act also allowed it to be used to oppress dissidents, which involved social stigmatizing, torture, concentration camps, and executions; the most infamous being the 1975 People’s Revolutionary Party Incident where 8 individuals were tortured into making fake confessions and then executed 18 hours after the sentence was passed. Imagine McCarthyism went on for 3~4 decades.

And while North Korea is certainly a military threat, it is by no means an ideological threat considering the economic, social, cultural, and political disparities between the two Koreas. By that I mean that North Korean propaganda have been ridiculed or ignored in South Korea since the 90s (before, it was feared and not to be spoken of) when more glimpses to its internal conditions became available. That’s what Park was doing, and why he’s getting support (his legal fees and bail were paid by online supporters) from Twitter users, and because the case is ironic and hilarious for the very reasons you mentioned. While anti-Communist fears of the older generation is understandable, democratic laws and accusations shouldn’t be based on fear and unreason.

Sibauchi (user link) says:

Re: Re: This would be hilarious if it wasn't so terrible

Excuse me, I don’t get how random citizens mocking North Korean propaganda can cause North Korea to launch missile attacks; however deranged, they are not exactly stupid. And if you’ve read the article, Park was accused of “endorsing and praising the enemy,” so the focus was on his assumed disloyalty and potential influence on South Koreans. Also I never said the situation wasn’t serious; I did mentioned that North Korea is a military threat. Diplomacy and military force should be the weapons to deal with such threats, not policing your own citizens over some minor tweets. Actually the ruling itself may have the danger of “endorsing and praising the enemy,” since it shows the North how its dumbass propaganda makes the South fearful. The purpose of their propaganda is to strike fear and confusion; so fearing it is directly playing into their hands. It’s precisely because I’ve lived in Seoul most of my life that I don’t want it to turn into something closer to the abhorring North.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 This would be hilarious if it wasn't so terrible

No, but when your neighbor can shoot at villages from across the border and launch ICBM’s, you tend to think it commen sense not to do something like mock the propaganda of said neighbor. You just don’t mock an over-reactive nation. It’s like having an anarchist next door to you that is OCD about home protection. If it were in serious form of protest of North Korea’s oppression, then I’m all for it. Keep in mind that only the elite (dictators and generals) have access to the Internet in NK and they are rather touchy.

Chargone (profile) says:

ya know, being a republic doesn’t actually guarantee, or even IMPLY any sort of freedoms, right?

all it means is that the head of state position is not hereditary. that is, it’s not a monarchy.

China is a republic. the USSR was a republic. all dictatorships are, by definition, republics (otherwise they’re absolute monarchies, which is only Almost the same thing.)

republic in no way implies democracy, freedom of speech, or anything else.

skpg (profile) says:

S.Korea is harldy any different compared to N.Korea

The only difference is that one accepts capitalism and the other accepts a failed economic policy (communism). But S.Korea is somewhat of a police state. They force S.Korean men to enter the military (very tyrannical), they have mandatory public schooling just like every other fascist country, they have nanny state laws regarding the use of playing video games. A very militaristic country that masks it’s true intentions while claiming to be free, sounds a lot like the U.S.

But a lot of the blame goes to the United States for dividing the country in the first place and we are still intervening by having U.S troops and bases stationed in S.Korea.

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