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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    SammyB, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 5:20am

    Serve's him right

    Kind of like yelling "fire" in a theatre...nothing wrong with prognosticating, but as Stan Lee said, "with great power comes great responsibility."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    James (profile), Jan 13th, 2009 @ 5:59am

    There is a difference

    He was spreading false information if he was guessing. He was whistle blowing if he knew the facts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Evil Mike, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 6:14am

    Re: There is a difference

    If he stated he was guessing... then how is it spreading false information?

    That's like calling somebody a liar even though they started with "I don't know, but I think it might be..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    usmcdvldg, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 6:53am

    Re: There is a difference

    Last time I checked, an opinion wasn't information.

    Its all in the presentation

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    DCX2, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 6:56am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Lonnie E. Holder, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 6:58am

    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."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Evil Mike, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 7:07am

    Re: Re: Re: There is a difference

    Thank you, I was unable to find any source material. :/

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Hulser, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 8:18am


    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Jack (profile), Jan 13th, 2009 @ 9:29am

    Re: scam

    I saw that story played out on the Twilight Zone a few months ago and yes it is a scam.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 11:59am

    I hate to break it to you, but it appears that your at a blog, and just read an opinion piece about false predictions that have no bearing in an American Reality with fine pieces as The First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

    Ain't life grand?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 12:43pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Robert Russell, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 9:04am

    sign in

    Why, with DSL do I have to sign in each time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    gene_cavanaugh, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 9:28am


    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    The Bedazler, Jan 20th, 2009 @ 10:26pm

    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.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    zozo, Jan 27th, 2009 @ 8:48am

    or maybe korean pple are stupid that they can't DISCERN.
    u see this loser minerva writing unverified info and ppl would just buy it as if it was the absolute truth...which reminds me of those celebrities killing themselves after reading lies about themselves online.

    cyber slander...this crap should be controlled.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    hipokrates, Jul 26th, 2010 @ 8:13am


    although all are open to each other, information can spread like the flow of water but we should keep the validity of the information we give them. there is the principle of educating all of us. so the information we provide must look after each other the true values.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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