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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  1. identicon
    korean-american, 21 Nov 2012 @ 3:17pm

    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.

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