South Korea's Love Affair With Censorship Squanders Their Tech Superiority

from the boobies-are-verboten dept

Statistically, South Korea is a juggernaut when it comes to technology. According to the latest data from Akamai, the country’s 22 megabits per second leads all countries in average downstream broadband speeds, and their broadband and TV bundle prices shame what’s available here in the States (a 1 Gbps line can be had for around $30 in Seoul). Internet penetration rates are great, the startup culture is vibrant, and the country just announced that they’re investing $1.5 billion on improved wireless technology they promise will deliver data at 1,000 times faster than existing 4G networks by 2020.

It’s a shame then that, as The Economist points out, they manage to shoot themselves squarely in the foot with bad policy (not that the United States is one to talk) and a growing love affair with content censorship. As with all slippery slopes, the government’s blocking of websites they deem inappropriate or offensive has magically ballooned year after year:

“Every week portions of the Korean web are taken down by government censors. Last year about 23,000 Korean webpages were deleted, and another 63,000 blocked, at the request of the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC), a nominally independent (but mainly government-appointed) public body. In 2009 the KCSC had made just 4,500 requests for deletion. Its filtering chiefly targets pornography, prostitution and gambling, all of which are illegal in South Korea.

The article notes that some restrictions have been lifted, and an attempt to make it mandatory that citizens post their names and ID numbers on political comments online was thwarted. Still, at the same time the country has ramped up its surveillance and censorship of social media, which like website filtering has resulted in more and more content disappearing:

The KCSC set up a special sub-committee on social media in 2011, and the following year asked for 4,500 comments on Twitter, Facebook and the like to be removed—13 times more than in 2010. Last year the number of comments deleted increased again, to 6,400.

So the next time we’re feeling ashamed by our immense mediocrity due to our own significant technology policy failures, we can at least be assured that we can still actually access most of the Internet with our overpriced and slow connections. For now.

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Companies: akamai

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Comments on “South Korea's Love Affair With Censorship Squanders Their Tech Superiority”

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5 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Korea has high broadband penetration for a reason...

Recently several colleagues and I discussed the differences in broadband penetration in South Korea and the United States, and why South Korea has such high broadband penetration. The reason is relatively simple. The population density of South Korea on average is 15 times that of the U.S. Perhaps more importantly, South Korea’s urban areas are, on average, much more densely populated than similar areas in the U.S.

The result of this population density is that it is relatively inexpensive to provide the infrastructure needed for broadband on a per customer basis, as compared to the U.S., with its sprawling urban areas. As an example, South Korea crams nearly twenty times more people into an area the size of Indianapolis than the U.S. does.

The bottom line is price per customer to install broadband. When each customer averages 60 to 150 feet apart, versus an average of 1 to 5 feet apart (horizontally; the distance is much, much less in the major cities in South Korea where enormous high rises cram thousands of people in each building), the cost of such infrastructure is relatively cheap.

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