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
    Sibauchi, 21 Nov 2012 @ 4:53pm

    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.

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