Monday, July 11, 2005

Dog 'Poop' Girl Redux

I was meaning to update the story of the 개똥녀 (aka 'Dog dung girl', aka 'Dog shit girl', aka 'Dog poop girl', aka 'Dog Excrement girl') after finding a few new (and some old) posts on it which shed a little more light on the event. However, now that she has made the Washington Post, an entirely new twist has been added to the story.

The reason that the story of the 개똥녀 made her way to the US was because of blogger Don Park, whose June 8 post, titled 'Korean Netizens Attack Dog-Shit-Girl' (and based on Korean language sources) included some troubling information that was not included in the English language Joongang Ilbo article posted a day earlier.
When nearby elders told her to clean up the mess, she basically told them to fuck off. A nearby enraged netizen then took pictures of her and posted it, without any masking, on a popular website which started a nationwide witchhunt.
For the "enraged netizen's" account of what happened, do read the article over at migukin, which has useful translations. Suffice to say, from this netizen's account, the girl in question was given towels and tissues but refused to clean up the mess, despite the urging of many around her, which prompted this woman to take the pictures.
The subway way train got to Ahyun Station and when the doors open, she got off. At that time, she said something rude to the ajumma.
As Don Park continues:
Within days, her identity and her past were revealed. Request for information about her parents and relatives started popping up and people started to recognize her by the dog and the bag she was carrying as well as her watch, clearly visible in the original picture. All mentions of privacy invasion were shouted down with accusations of being related to the girl. The common excuse for their behavior was that the girl doesn't deserve privacy.
Contrast this with the Joongang Ilbo article, which said only that netizens
began visiting the Web site of the university they assumed the woman attended, and bombarding it with postings. The site's server went down because of the surge in traffic. Then people began calling the university...
Though a week later the Hankyoreh spoke of 'unspeakable verbal abuse unleashed on...the so-called "dog shit woman"', and the Korea Times wrote that 'some Web surfers revealed her name, age and school after seeing the picture at many Web sites', and just a few days ago the Herald wrote that 'thousands visited her personal Web page to criticize her', none of these sound as serious as the situation Don Park described on his blog (for example, they never mentioned the calls for names of family members). These articles (especially the Joongang one) seem to have left some important details out, as is common for Korean newspapers when translating articles into English (though it's becoming less common as time goes on). The omission of these unpleasant details certainly coloured my initial reaction to the event.

Mugukin posts a translation of the apology that appeared on this photo, apparently posted by the girl herself:
I know I was wrong, but you guys are so harsh. I’m regret it, but I was so embarrassed so I just wanted to leave there. I was very irritable because many people looked at me and pushed me to clean the poop. Anyhow, I’m sorry. But, if you keep putting me down on the Internet I will sue all the people and at the worst I will will commit suicide. So please don’t do that anymore.
Park also included links to parodies and photos, as well as a few quotes and paraphrases, such as:
Her life deserves to be ruined and she won't kill herself because she is a thick-skinned bitch.
"Thanks to technology, we are able to build a better society in which citizens are the police, prosecutors, and judges."
This reminds me of a statement in the aforementioned recent Herald article regarding the results of a poll on cyber witchhunts:
'Twenty-four percent said it violated privacy, while 26.2 percent believed that witch hunts are necessary. Apparently, '979 cases of cyber witch hunts were reported last year. There were only 33 reported cases in 2001. Defamation of character complaints increased from 245 in 2001 to 1,306 this year'.
Of course, the story of Dogshit Girl (abbrieviated to DSG on Park's blog) has been referred to constantly in the Korean media since the incident occurred, especially in the deluge of 'cyber terror' articles and editorials mostly supportive of a measure to ban aliases on some internet sites in Korea. But she has also become well known in the US blogosphere as well, due to Park's initial post on June 8 (some of the comments upon which are well worth reading).

On June 29, the popular site Fark linked to Park's DSG story, where the link to his story has been clicked on 41857 times (Park noticed this the next day). While most of the commentary is not worth your time, the parodies US bloggers have posted there are worth a look (if only to see the gulf between photoshop skills in Korea and in the US). Soon, a number of American bloggers began to comment on the significance of the DSG incident in a world where so many people have access to digital cameras and blogs, and the use of these to enforce norms.

From there, these bloggers obviously caught the attention of the Washington Post, which published an article on July 6 titled 'Subway Fracas Escalates Into Test Of the Internet's Power to Shame'. What's interesting is that, though he presents at least one new fact (maybe) about the original incident (that she had quit her university), the article is mostly an article examining the opinions of American bloggers who posted articles after Park's original DSG post became well known. It's well worth a read, but doesn't focus on the Korean context in which the incident occurred, but instead wonders about its significance for internet culture in general.

While the story of DSG certainly hasn't died in the Korean press, it has been given a new lease on life due to the fact that the Korean media has now covered the Washington Post article. The Chosun Ilbo gave us ’Trial by Internet’ Casts Spotlight on Korean Cyber Mobs on July 6, while the next day, the Donga Ilbo posted “Dog Excrement Girl” Story Debated in U.S. One of the final ironies is that Don Park found the Washington Post article by reading about it in a Yonhap News article. So in this amplification loop, 개똥녀 travelled around the world from the Korean media, to Don Park's blog, to American bloggers covering Don Park's blog (and each other), to the Washington Post covering all of these bloggers, and back to the Korean media, now covering the Washington Post's take on what they reported a month earlier, filtered through blogs...

What fun.

A comment...somewhere... pointed to the story of Laura K Krishna, from late March this year, as an event similar to DSG (start at the last post...)

[Edit]
At the top of this post, I was listing all the variations on the 개똥녀's English names, mainly because I thought it was funny to see how it was translated considering how taboo 'Poo' is in English (while such taboos don't exist in Korea, really). I believe the Hankyoreh was the only paper to use the word 'shit'. At any rate, I didn't realize I'd unwittingly guaranteed that whatever name you punch in, this page would pop up on Google...

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Portals and the Cyber Terror blame game

The Joongang Ilbo has an interesting story titled 'Web harassment victims plan to sue portal sites.' One of the people is a woman whose 15 year old daughter was harrassed to the point that she ran away and has been missing since March. The other man had asked several portals to remove messages in which personal information about him had been posted, but none responded.
"By remaining silent about such postings, the portals have increased their traffic and made more money from ads," said Byeong Hui-jae, who represents a group of cyber terror victims.

Kim Seong-ho of Kinternet, an assocation of Internet companies, said the sites should not be held accountable. "Holding the portals responsible for the problems may discourage Internet business," he said.
Oh, well, if it's going to discourage business, the harrassment will have to continue. What an ass. The point about increasing traffic (and hurting business) is certainly worth considering. The Kinternet spokesman's comment seems to acknowledge that the greater the controversy, the more traffic they get and more revenue they receive. During 'English-Spectrum Gate,' the Marmot reported "a huge spike in traffic after the Joongang piece (which broke the story) went up on major Korean portal sites," and that "the Yahoo! Korea piece [was] the sixth-most-looked-at story of the day, garnering 925 comments" in mere hours. A portion of netizen attentions focussed upon the girls in the photos (which had been posted uncensored on these sites) and soon they were facing an incredible amount of harrassment, which, it would seem, was good for the portals' business. Perhaps the portals could take a cue from the newly moderated English Spectrum.

At any rate, the article does give the indication that there might be alternatives to a 'Real Name' system, as does an article at the Joongang Ilbo titled 'Portal sites face probe on cyber violence'. I doubt it's a coincidence that the government announced it would investigate some 15 different portals the day after the people described above held their press conference. The article says that the government plans to 'ask the companies operating those sites to make it easier for Internet users to delete specific postings on Web boards that defame individuals online. Well, this could lead to problems as well ('hey, where did that entire thread go?'). An article at the Chosun Ilbo giving tips on how to protect yourself from 'phishing' and other internet scams does not take note of the fact that the frequent use of Resident Numbers in Korean cyberspace is what makes Koreans much more vulnerable to this kind of hacking (which the article says is on the rise), and that a 'real name' system could possibly make things worse in this respect.

On a related note, the Donga Ilbo reports that:
[a]n organization of hackers was caught by the police for hacking into Korean portal sites to procure the personal information of 50,000 internet users and then stealing cyber cash from them.
Apparently a Mr Lee used a group of Chinese hackers and Korean e-money changers to pull this off.
Lee took advantage of the fact that most Korean netizens use the same ID and password when using portal and game sites and logged on using those to steal e-money. They later cashed the stolen e-money worth 150 million won through Jo and his group of e-money changers. The Chinese hackers, Korean money changers, and Lee divided up the cash in a 4:4:3 ratio.
Not a bad haul for the mastermind. I'm not entirely sure, but I think the e-cash was from game sites. For more on e-theft from game users, have a look here (and for game-related off-line violence, see here).

[Update]

On July 11, a Joongang Ilbo article, "Defending Real Names," presented the viewpoint of Information Minister Chin Dae-je and his ministry's plans to crack down on cyber terrorism, telling readers that "measures like forcing Internet users to use their real names online [...] will safeguard freedom of expression." On July 19, in an op-ed titled "Bringing Order to the Internet" (anyone else find it difficult not to picture Darth Vader when reading that title?), sociology professor Bae Young opines that a real name system "will do a great deal to prevent reckless behavior online."
The opponents of the proposed system argue that the use of real names is not required in any other country in the world. They also say that since many organizations and companies with an online presence require the use of real names now, such a system virtually exists already. But Koreans use community sites and bulletin boards more actively than any other people in the world do. Information spreads through them at remarkable speed. We are in a unique situation that cannot be objectively compared to that of other countries.
And there you have it. On a related note, a July 22 article revealed that 20,000 internet users' private data had been exposed on the internet in the first half of 2005.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

'Real Names' in Korean Cyberspace

After blogging about being inundated with 'Cyber Terror' articles and editorials, an editorial appeared on June 30 in the Joongang Ilbo titled 'Rein in online anonymity'.
Saying that people have to take responsibility for their actions even in cyberspace, Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan has announced that the government will introduce a system requiring Internet users to use their real names. "It will be possible to search for information or play games anonymously, but it is a problem when people criticize or in ‘flame' others while in hiding," he said. He also said that it is not right to exercise freedom of expression without taking responsibility for it.

the threat to privacy can be prevented by developing a system that can verify a user's identity by means other than the residential registration number. At any rate, it is in the basic spirit of the Constitution that the rights of victims deserve protection as much as people's freedom of expression does.

The Internet must no longer be used as a deadly weapon. History tells us that the laissez-faire approach never has good results.
Well, maybe it hasn't had such good results in South Korea, where it's never been allowed to exist, in many ways. Another 5 year economic plan anyone?

The next day, on July 1 the Joongang Ilbo gave us this update: 'Ban on Web aliases set for October'.
The Ministry of Information and Communication said that it would establish measures to ban the use of aliases on certain Web sites by October.
The government wants to require Korean Internet users to identify themselves when posting messages on online bulletin boards to prevent "cyber witch hunts."
I can't say I'm all that surprised. There's a bit more information here.

The Korea times posted an article July 3 with the misleading title "8 Out of 10 Internet Users Prefer Real Names". This is misleading mainly because the title refers to the results of one poll (by the Ministry of Information and Communication and Yahoo.co.kr) out of three polls that are reported to have been conducted so far. The results of the other 2 polls found that 65% of Naver users and only 57% of Dreamwiz users supported the ban on aliases. Of course, as with any poll, these results should be taken with a grain of salt. The Joongang Ilbo reported the same day, in an article titled ‘Real name system' wins online support', that the Yahoo poll 'had been ongoing since June 15". Finally, a July 5 article at the Korea Times titled 'Real-Name System Sought for Internet Users' tells us this about the polls:
According to a survey of 7,909 Internet users by Naver (www.naver.com), the nation’s largest Web portal, 65 percent of those polled supported using real names on the Web, while 32 percent opposed it. The survey was conducted between June 13 and July 3.

Another survey of 1,631 people by Yahoo Korea (www.yahoo.co.kr), which was conducted over the same period, showed an even higher percentage. Eighty percent backed the new anti-defamation scheme, dwarfing the 18 percent that objected to it.
It seems to me that the poll to pick as being the most representative would be the Naver poll, and not the Yahoo poll (with its much smaller sample) and it's figure of 80% which is routinely quoted. The article also tells us this:
Rep. Chung Sye-kyun, the party’s floor leader, said, "We will positively consider introducing the "real-name system’’ as the government is also studying a new regulation and a great number of Internet users have expressed their support for it in recent surveys.’’

Chung said cyber crimes have steadily increased and the number of such crimes this year is estimated at as much as 10 times that in 2001.
The next day, July 6, saw a number of articles and editorials weigh in on the 'Real Name' system. The Korea Herald, in an editorial titled 'Real name on the Web,' had this to say:
Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan and Information-Communication Minister Chin Dae-je are championing the adoption of the Internet real-name system under which Web site visitors will be required to reveal their real names with resident identification numbers instead of freely chosen nicknames and identity codes. Minister Chin observes that time has come to adopt the real-name system now that the number of victims from cyber terrorism is rapidly increasing. However, some privacy-advocating civic groups oppose the government move, alleging that requiring the writer's real name is tantamount to censorship.

It is hard to understand that the National Human Rights Commission sided with the advocacy groups, claiming that the freedom of Internet-based communication is rooted in anonymity. The commission, which has raised liberal voices within the administration since its inception three years ago on various social issues, argued that any attempt to deny this anonymity amounts to prior censorship.

...[A]uthorities attribute nine suicide cases this year alone to character attacks via Internet.

...[A]n overwhelming majority of "netizens" favor introduction of the real-name system. The survey results seem to strengthen the conviction of ministry officials to start the regulation from the target date, Oct. 1 this year. Technical preparations are needed to ensure no loopholes but there is no justification for much delay.
Hmmm. It's hard to see exactly where the Herald stands. "Privacy-advocating civic groups" - and a Human Rights Commission which raises "liberal voices" (imagine that! I had no idea!). Speaking of seeing where a paper stands, the same day the Hankyoreh surprised no one with this editorial, titled ''Real Names' Not Solution to Internet Problems':
The government and ruling party are talking about implementing a "real name system" for the internet. The government was the first to announce it would consider it, and now the ruling Uri Party has decided to consider it. The idea was talked about in 2003 but things got nowhere because it was so controversial. Now it is back on the drawing board as the "linguistic violence" of the internet has been receiving more attention as a result of the so-called "dog poop girl" episode.

The discussion about "real names" is full of misconceptions and illusions. The most exemplary is the misconception that there is not already a "real name system" in effect. Most of the large portal sites that lead the way in public opinion on the internet already require "real names" at time of registration. At a considerable number of news or government sites you cannot write messages on forums and bulletin boards without confirmation of your identity. Election laws require that people identify themselves on election-related sites [...]

Internet violence is clearly cause for concern. The solution, however, is not total confirmation of identity. The solution is to be found in voluntary self-regulatory effort by sensible users and in internet education.
And rounding out the July 6 articles was this editorial by the Korea Times titled 'Real Name Use on the Web: Cowardly Act Under Pseudonym Should Be Prevented':

The move is timely and right because "cyber violence’’ has gone out of control.It is encouraging that eight out of 10 Internet users support the government’s plan, which the opposition Grand National Party decided to endorse, in principle, on Tuesday.

Of course, there are forces that do not want the new formula because of privacy concerns. In some cases there may be problems with individual information when surfers use their real names and register their citizenship number (social security number) when they make postings on the Web.

But few could deny that abuses of anonymous postings have gotten out of hand, requiring immediate legal measures to check them to help enhance a healthy online culture in the world’s top Internet country.

What is clear-cut is that slandering others under a false name is a cowardly act that must be stopped at any cost to make this society worth living in.

I do have to wonder, if a similar poll had been taken regarding using a real name system before the deluge of articles following the 'Dog Dung Girl', would people have been so receptive to the idea? Just how much is media coverage of 'cyber terror' driving public opinion right now? The Korea Herald tells us that 'an overwhelming majority of netizens' support the measure, while the Korea Times tells us 'eight out of 10 Internet users support the government’s plan', which is interesting when you consider that these two claims are referring to the 80%
of those polled (1,631 people) over at Yahoo Korea. It seems they're willfully ignoring the lower figure of 65% support from a much larger poll at Naver in order to create the illusion of 'an overwhelming majority' supporting the measure.

As to why the ban on web aliases is set for October, a Korea Times article titled Korea to Sharpen Teeth on Cyber Crime', dated May 18th (almost two weeks before the 'Dog Dung Girl'), states that the MIC was considering 'introducing regulations that enable the police to investigate online slander cases without victim complaint', and would decide on whether to include this in a new bill by the end of October. It seems possible this ban on web aliases may be added to this proposed bill, or should I saw 'a proposed bill' - the article's final paragraph is a little confusing. It's ironic that the MIC wants to (presumably) increase the use of resident numbers to identify people online when Information-Communication Minister Chin Dae-je said back in February that identity theft was becoming such a problem that they wanted to replace the resident numbers with a new registration system online.

I'll finish off with this strange article about Genghis Khan that appeared last October titled 'Dominance by ‘nomadic' thinking?'
Many scholars claim that the age of nomads will return in the 21st century. In the era of the Internet, the spacially oriented thinking of settlers will be outdone by the nomadic thinking of pursuing an open society. Samsung Economic Research Institute proposed "Digital Khan" as a keyword for the rebound of the Korean economy.

Boasting one of the world's most extensive digital infrastructures and dynamics, Koreans can dominate cyberspace as Genghis Khan did with physical space. Genetically, 80 percent of Koreans have nomadic genes. The characteristic has contributed to Korea's strength in cyberspace, and we can become the Genghis Khan of the digital world, the institute claimed. In order to achieve the goal, we should create an open society that looks outward instead of inward and pursues the future instead of the past.
Ignoring the obvious 'smoking crack' cracks (like how a group of people with 80% nomadic genes created the almost-impervious-to-change agriculture-based Chosun dynasty, for example), I do have to wonder if creating a 'real name system' is part of this goal of creating an 'open society', especially considering how difficult it can be for foreigners to take part in Korean cyberspace.

Online English language newspapers in Korea

I have to say, I've been growing more and more impressed with the Joongang Ilbo's online English edition. Here's a quick reason why.

Today a story broke about Korean fishermen and underage prostitutes in the small Pacific island nation of Kiribati. A look at the titles alone gives you an idea of the differences:

The Chosun Ilbo: Group Wants Child Sex Tourists Punished at Home
The Korea Herald: Child sex abuse in Kiribati criticized
The Joongang Ilbo:Koreans held responsible for islands' sex industry

Do have a look at all 3 of them. As soon as I read the Joongang Ilbo story, it was obvious who was giving out the most details. The 'Special' section is also well worth reading; there are a number of in depth articles there.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Riding the wave of 'cyber terror' articles

Waves of 'posting frenzy' occur regularly in Korean cyberspace; for example, during the U.S. hate-a-thon in 2002, the 'texting frenzy' that got Roh Moo-hyun elected, during his impeachment and Kim Sun-il's murder, and other 'big' events. These also occur in response to 'smaller' events, however, like the Miryang rape case, English Spectrum-Gate, the celebrity X-file, Takeshima Day, and, of course, the 'Dog Dung Girl', who I wrote about here (consider that Part 1 of this post).

For some reason, the dog dung girl was the straw that broke the camel's back, and the Korean media reported the event and began to comment on 'Internet Witchhunts', in the words of the first article in English in the Joongang Ilbo on June 7. Some of the larger 'waves' described above had been guided in part by the media; suddenly, after the dog dung girl, we've been thoroughly saturated with 'Cyber Terror' articles in the Korean media (I'm looking at the English language articles, of course).

First to follow the dog dung girl was the sad story of Twist Kim, (who I've mentioned here) which the Donga Ilbo reported on June 16. In it, Kim said,
“The first problem is that there are such unscrupulous people who do terrible things that hurt others’ lives so much. But another problem is that the government and legal authorities do nothing about cyber terrorism, citing ambiguity of the law. I ask the authorities to take active action to protect those who suffer because of cyber terrorism.”
Now, the nice thing about the Donga Ilbo (perhaps the sole redeeming feature on its English site) is that you can just click to read the same article in Korean. In case you were wondering, the Korean word is indeed "Cyber Terror" (사이버 테러). This was the first article to use the word (in English), and thus a week of Cyber Terror articles followed. That same day, the Chosun Ilbo posted an editorial mentioning 'Twist Kim' titled "We Need Redress Against Online Terror":
Most cyber terror victims have no alternative but to put up with the abuse. In extreme cases, victims lose their jobs and social life and attempt suicide. Cyber violence has long crossed the danger level, to the point where some are calling for the use of only real names online, a measure that could threaten many of the Internet’s benefits.

Judicial authorities must ensure that the victims of cyber terror have some sort of redress, instead of resorting to the excuse that the law is ambiguous. The fundamental solution depends on the good sense of Internet users. Schools, homes and society at large must teach and practice online ethics.
A Joongang Ilbo article titled "'Cyber terror’ prompts call for end to online anonymity" offered a solution:
Similar cases of defamation or harrassment ― including cases in which harrassment has spilled over into the “offline” world, as victims of smear attacks find their telephone numbers or workplace addresses distributed online ― have led the Ministry of Information and Communication to argue that “netizens” should have to use their real names.

“With the sharp growth in recent cyber terror attacks, a need for using real names on the Internet is growing,” Minister of Information and Communication Chin Dae-je said yesterday.
An op-ed article in the Donga Ilbo the next day, entitled 'Twist kim's tears' (after writing a full article on him the day before) took aim at cyber terror:
Normal people are apt to turn into "techno rioters," sure of their anonymity within a group and in cyberspace. Verbal attacks become increasingly abusive, and the Internet becomes an ugly battlefield. Whether a person is guilty or not, once online attacks start, the hostility amplifies and people attack indiscriminately. This psychology is shown most distinctly in cyber space.

The legal sector should not sit idly, hiding behind ambiguous legislations. Netizens should change their ways of thinking; they should take voluntary action, such as Internet moral conduct movements, to prevent further damage.
That day, the Hankyoreh also posted an editorial called 'Netizens Need 'Ethical Guidelines''
At this point it would seem necessary to declare an all-out war on this new form of violence in the digital age. There are increasing calls for analysis of the types of cyber violence and measures that would assist people seeking help, and for better organization of the related legislation that is currently too vague. However, over-dependency on legal rules could harm internet debate and discussion, which is an important part of Korea's mature civil society. That is why it is more important that civil society engage in self-regulation to effectively fight cyber violence, instead of having that effort led by the government.
Two days later on June 19, the Korea Times posted an opinion column by a Korean high school teacher entitled 'Kangaroo Court on the Net'
The importance of netiquette and the seriousness of the side effects of Internet violence in Korea cannot be exaggerated. We should be proud of Korea’s dominance in information technology but freedom of the press on the Internet must be regulated to improve Korea's IT culture.
The next day saw a broad-ranging article on many aspects of Korean internet culture (and how foreigners often don't fit into it) titled 'Foreigners Excluded From Korean Sites':
"The cyber terror and Twist Kim cases showcase how the Internet can ruin a person’s life. Before boasting we are the Internet powerhouse, we should turn our attention to its dark side first," Korea University professor Kwon Jung-hye said.
Perhaps a pattern is starting to become obvious. All of these articles or editorials have called upon netizens to learn some manners, and all but one have called for legislative action by the government. The sole exception was, of course, the Hankyoreh's editorial; I'm certain many readers who might normally disagree with the Hankyoreh's stances will find themselves in agreement with its opinion that hemming in cyberspace with too much legislation is a bad idea. Looking over these editorials, however, makes it clear that this seems to be a minority view in the Korean press.

Two days later, on June 22, the Joongang Ilbo posted an article titled 'Courts get tougher on online slander':
With Internet-based harassment becoming more common, courts have been handing down sterner sentences for online threats and defamations of character. In Seoul Southern District Court yesterday, a 23-year-old man, identified by his family name, Yun, was sentenced to eight months in jail for slandering and threatening his ex-girlfriend.

"Normally, offline libel cases result in light punishments, such as suspended sentences or fines," said one court official. "But cyber defamation tends to cause serious damage to a victim's reputation. Since such cases have dramatically increased recently, punishments have gotten heavier."

A help center for victims of online harassment said it received 2,285 calls for help in 2004, compared to 278 in 2001. About 70 to 80 percent of the calls were about online defamation.
That seems like a lot of calls for help, doesn't it? I wonder how Korea's online harrassment compares with other countries'. At any rate, now that we know the courts are stepping up efforts to combat this menace, that should be about it for this wave of Cyber Terror stories, right?

I'm afraid not. From today's Joongang Ilbo, we find an article titled 'Government seeks to bar Web aliases'
Government officials said yesterday that they have started looking at ways to keep Internet users from hiding behind aliases when posting inflammatory messages on Web sites.

The Ministry of Information and Communication said it will meet with officials and related experts today to figure out how to force Internet users to reveal their true identities when posting on bulletin boards, such as by entering their national identification number.
So the government has decided to turn its attention to the darker side of Korean internet culture (I love that word 'force'). Of course, if the idea of more government regulation and the banning of aliases seems far fetched, it's best to remember what the government did in order to stop Koreans from watching the Kim Sun-il video last summer.

The article ends with the opinion of a law professor:
"The Internet has been used as a place where the minority can express their opinions against the majority," he said. "If people have to write under their real names, they would neither offer sound social criticism nor uncover unfair treatment in society."
In an article titled Power of Netizens posted at the Donga Ilbo yesturday, polls looking at how netizens have influenced the actions of the government and other public figures (done without considering other possible influences on government decisions, and without thinking about what kind of demographic these netizens represent), this statement was made:
“Perhaps not always, but the increasing influence of netizens implies the emergence of new opinion leaders,” said Jang Deok-jin, a social science professor at Seoul National University, and noted, “Nobody will be able to make decisions easily without the consent of these cybercitizens in the future.”
But if these cybercitizens have to identify themselves at every turn, will they be so vocal? Its hard to know what will come of this, but considering the fact that many sites already require people to register using their citizen numbers, and the actions the Korean government took last summer, I don't have high hopes. I don't think it's a bad thing at all that this discussion of internet harrassment has been brought into the open - it's obviously become a widespread social problem. I don't think more regulation is the answer, however, and the ban on aliases will likely make Korean cyberspace even less accessible for foreigners, which goes against all the blathering on about globalization and embracing the future. I imagine Korea's netizens, along with civic groups, will have some opinions to express on all of this over the next few days. How much those opinions will have been influenced by all this 'cyber terror' coverage, only time will tell.

Hat tip to Marmot guest bloggers Robert and Shelton.