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INTERNET CENSORSHIP IN SOUTH KOREA
Posted 5 Jun 2002 10:39:29 UTC

The world's attention is currently focused on South Korea as the host (along with Japan) of this year's World Cup. But there is another reason why we should pay attention to this country, which President Bush has described as "a vibrant democracy": its nasty habit of censoring websites of which the government does not approve.

Internet regulation in Korea is the job of the Information Communication Ethics Committee (ICEC). ICEC, a nominally independent body which in reality seems to be heavily influenced by government policy, is responsible for overseeing the "Internet Content Rating Service", which allows websites to self-evaluate themselves on their "danger to minors." This service is based on PICS, the Platform for Internet Content Selection, which is also used by RSAC and other services.

Although ICEC claims that participation in its rating service is "Self-regulation without censorship," recent events have shown that this is not the case. Last week, an anarchist, anti-military website was ordered closed down. Apparently, the website was shut down because its anti-military stance contradicts the South Korean constitution, which provides for the existence of a military. The website nocensor.org (in Korean; automated translation) contains statements against the censorship.

This is not the first time that ICEC has moved to shut down websites. Early this year, ICEC's compulsory filtering system blocked access to a number of gay and lesbian websites. This blocking is apparently based upon Korea's "Youth Protection Law," which classifies homosexuality as "obscenity and perversion." Letters of protest can be sent from the website of the Lesbian and Gay Alliance Against Discrimination in Korea.

If Korea can continue to block the websites of anarchists and homosexuals yet still be termed a "vibrant democracy," one wonders what President Bush has in mind for the United States. It is important that we oppose censorship in all countries, before similar occurrences happen here.

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