A 28-year-old man, called only by his last name Nam, has been arrested in South Korea for allegedly praising North Korea, according to the Korea Herald. By law, it is prohibited in South Korea to praise or show sympathy for North Korea.
Nam is accused of publishing dozens of articles praising the Pyongyang regime between 2011 and 2013.
After Nam’s arrest, a small group of around 20 activists gathered in protest, saying his detention went against freedom of expression.
Nam is not the only one to fall foul of this particular South Korean law, created in 1948 and part of the National Security Law. Earlier this year, a female former politician and a Korean-American woman were arrested for allegedly sympathizing with Pyongyang. The Korean-American was deported back to the United States.
Despite the 1950-53 Korean conflict ending almost 70 years ago, the two are technically at war as a peace treaty was never signed.
Global rights groups have argued that the National Security Law stifles free speech, but the government in Seoul maintains it is necessary to defend itself against the nuclear-armed North.
South Korea has been widely criticized for having censorship laws that are detrimental to freedom of expression. Despite widespread digital literacy and the world’s fastest broadband speeds, the Pacific country has been curtailing Internet access over recent years.
According to the magazine The Economist, portions of the South Korean web are removed each week by government censors. “The futuristic country is stuck in the Dark Ages”, it has remarked.
Seoul says it is targeting pornography and gambling – both illegal in South Korea – but as a result, freedom of expression is being quashed. Online gaming is illegal after midnight for most adolescents and all sites from North Korea, including its Twitter feed, are blocked. In 2012, a photographer retweeted North Korean tweets, and had to spend 10 months behind bars as a result.
With a 5G wireless network planned for the county by 2020, the moves against Internet freedom seem paradoxical. This is certainly one to watch going forward.