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Dec 6, 2011

Protection of Free Speech in Korea over the Internet

Evan Ramstad and R. Jai Krishna wrote a good piece for the Wall Street Journal on the freedom of speech in Korea and India.
Korea has, again, begun to stricly enforce its online censorship laws. Some academics are questiong the means and tactics of the Korean government:
"Whoever has posted the illegal information can be held responsible that way," said Mr. Park, who is a law professor at Korea University in Seoul. "The commission's answer to shut down or erase the illegal information is virtually impossible to enforce in a constitutional manner."

South Korea's 1987 constitution guarantees free speech. Even so, the government has created a welter of limits on expression, particularly on political and security topics. South Korea also allows people to be criminally punished for defamation and the country is one of just a few, including Japan, where truth is not allowed as a defense against libel.
Over the past decade, that atmosphere of limited expression has crept into South Korean cyberspace. For instance, the government requires South Koreans to use real names when they make comments on Internet sites or post videos on Korea-based Web portals. Online game players must also use their real names and provide ages to comply with nightly curfews on children using computer games.
Is it time to recognize that free speech in Korea will come with many pains, but the benefits of an open and free democracy far outweighs the pain felt by a small minority of the population (usually public figures)?  Are Koreans skin not thick enough, yet, to deal with a free and open society?
Jai and Evan's article may be found at:  Offensive Content Targeted in Asia
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SeanHayes@ipglegal.com