Friday, June 20, 2008

Koreans Protest Internet Policies

Korean Progressive Network Jinbonet, together with activists of Korea Human Rights Network, had a press conference this morning (June 20, 2008) at 11 am in the lobby of Grand Ballroom where stakeholder's forums were held, to criticize the ICT policy of Korean government and censure brutal violence of riot police. Though there was a restraint of security guard for a while, we could proceed a press conference successfully.

Byoung Il Oh, Jinbonet Journalist

There are forums of the OECD going on in Seoul. This is the press release which the activists have posted:
Internet powerhouse, Korea? Shame on its Internet policies!

OECD ministerial meeting on "the Future of the Internet Economy" will be held in Seoul, Korea from June 17th to 18th. The Korean government seems to use this meeting as an opportunity to show off its advances
of the Internet technology and promote "IT Korea global sales" by hosting the World IT Show and other similar events. However, no one would call a nation a 'leading country of the Internet' solely on its strong information technology base and IT industries. We hope this meeting would be a chance for the Korean government to recognize and feel embarrassed for its information and communication policies, including Internet policies, which violate many human-rights and is lagging behind.

Just a few months ago, an Internet auction site was hacked causing personal information of more than ten million people to be exposed, and one of the major ISPs, Hanaro-Telecom, intentionally abused its more than six million clients' personal information (the number of leaked records were more than eighty five millions). If public authority did their jobs in monitoring and overseeing these companies' behaviors in collecting and using personal information, damages from such instances could have been minimized. NGOs in Korea has argued for establishing an independent 'privacy supervisory authority' to oversee
such activities for many years. But the government's lack of will and the National Assembly's negligence cast a long shadow on the prospect of establishing such an authority to oversee privacy in the so-called 'Internet powerhouse'.... An administrative body of the government (Korea Communication Commission, which hosts the OECD meeting) can order deletion of expressions (articles, video files and so on) on the Internet which it decides is illegal without any judicial process. Moreover, the government tends to regulate critical expression toward the government on the Internet through various ways. Recently, as concerns and criticism over beef import negotiations between Korea and U.S. spread among citizens through the Internet, the Korean government stipulated the Internet as the origin of 'negative public opinion against the government'. A government official called an Internet portal site hosting one of the on-line communities to pressure them.

Furthermore, the Korean Communications Standards Commission, a deliberation authority, issued a recommendation that recommends 'purifying its languages and restraining exaggerated expressions' to an on-line community that is critical about the government.

One of the slogans of the conference is 'confidence'. However, information and communication policies in Korea has been pursuing 'control' instead of 'confidence'. We hope the OECD meeting to be an opportunity for Korean government to reflect on its policies and the government to listen to the voice of civil societies that have long been ignored.

June 16, 2008 Korean Progressive Network, Jinbonet

Monday, June 16, 2008

Blogger Arrests Hit Record High

From the BBC Blogger arrests hit record high
More bloggers than ever face arrest for exposing human rights abuses or criticising governments, says a report. Since 2003, 64 people have been arrested for publishing their views on a blog, says the University of Washington annual report. In 2007 three times as many people were arrested for blogging about political issues than in 2006, it revealed. More than half of all the arrests since 2003 have been made in China, Egypt and Iran, said the report.

Jail sentence
Citizens have faced arrest and jail for blogging about many different topics, said the World Information Access (WIA) report. Arrested bloggers exposed corruption in government, abuse of human rights or suppression of protests. They criticised public policies and took political figures to task.

The report said the rising number of arrests was testament to the "growing" political importance of blogging. It noted that arrests tended to increase during times of "political uncertainty", such as around general elections or during large scale protests. Jail time followed arrest for many bloggers, said the report, which found that the average prison sentence for blogging was 15 months. The longest sentence found by the WIA was eight years.

It acknowledged that the true number of bloggers arrested could be far higher than the total it found as, in some cases, it proved hard to verify if an arrest had taken place and on what grounds. For instance, it said the Committee to Protect Bloggers has published information about 344 people arrested in Burma - many of whom are thought to be be bloggers - but the WIA could not verify all the reports.

It also noted that many nations, perhaps as many as 30, imposed technological restrictions on what people can do online. In nations such as China this made it difficult for people to use a blog as a means of protest. The report pointed out that it is not just governments in the Middle East and East Asia that have taken steps against those publishing their opinions online. In the last four years, British, French, Canadian and American bloggers have also been arrested.

The report predicted that the number of blogger arrests in 2008 would exceed the 36 seen in 2007 thanks to greater popularity of blogging as a medium, greater enforcement of net restrictions, and elections in China, Pakistan, Iran and the US.
Story from BBC NEWS: Published: 2008/06/16 10:38:57 GMT

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Laser Tagging

Korean demonstrators are using a form of laser graffitti that was developed at the Graffitti Research Lab.The translation of this is: "PRESIDENT LEE MYUNG-BAK IS FIRED" The translation of this is "STRUGGLE UNTIL THE DAY OF VICTORY!"

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Korean Demonstrations Show Strength of Net (and Cartoon) Organizing

(There has been candlelight demonstration everyday for over one month, and today there will be biggest demonstration. 6 June, today is a historical day in Korea in remembrance of 6.10 struggle of 1987, when Korean people fought against the military dictatorship and win our democracy, eg direct election of President. Now Korean people are preparing 2nd historical 6.10 today.--Byoung-il Oh)
From Ohmynews:
A cartoon circulating online and published in the Internet newspaper Pressian captures the gulf between Korean citizens and netizens and the conservative government officials they are demonstrating against.

The cartoon shows a caricature of President Lee on a balcony above the protesters. Standing beside him is a mad cow. Lee is dressed in a police uniform and on his helmet is written 2MB. 2MB is the pejorative nickname netizens have given him. 2MB is both a pun on Lee's name (Lee in Korean sounds the same as the word for 2) and MB stands for Lee's initials and for the computer term megabytes. 2MB represents the limited mental capacity netizens attribute to Lee.In the cartoon an arrow from the word 3MB pointing to the mad cow indicates it has a mental capacity of 3MB. Lee is shown asking how the people protesting pay for their candles, repeating the rumor that the protesters are being influenced from behind the scenes by someone manipulating them. The people respond that they pay for their candles from their own money. That they are not being manipulated but are protesting voluntarily for reasons of their own. The mad cow tells Lee that he should use more intelligence when talking to the people.

The description accompanying the cartoon referred to the public sphere provided by the Internet where netizens discuss and argue over issues. Lee is presented in the description with the cartoon, as failing to understand the Internet and its process of collectively developed knowledge.

Instead, he relies on conservative news media like the newspaper Chosun Ilbo. In the past, conservative newspapers like Chosun Ilbo were able to instruct politicians in the actions they should take. This represented a source of political power for the conservative media.

With the Internet and the emergence of netizens, this old form of political activity is being challenged.

As the cartoon demonstrates, the issue of what is an appropriate model for democracy for South Korea is a hot topic among netizens. Koreans have a proud tradition of struggle against the former military dictatorship in South Korea.

The Internet makes the old forms of hierarchical governance structures less tenable. In their place, it is becoming possible to create horizontal structures where all netizens can discuss and contribute in an equal fashion. The old institutional forms, like Lee's government structures, rely on vertical forms that are hierarchical. But these hierarchical forms are no longer adequate for the needs of the modern era.

The netizen movement in South Korea has pioneered how to create new democratic structures using the Internet and the horizontal forms it makes possible. [3] Among the forms that are being explored are a media using the Internet to provide live TV coverage of the demonstrations, the posting of many videos and photos and continuous online discussion and debate. One of the online video sites is the OhmyTV site, where there is live 24 hour coverage of the demonstrations.

The candlelight demonstrations, along with extensive discussion among netizens online, represent recognition among citizens and netizens that there is a need to broaden the forms of democracy in South Korea. The determination that no politicians be allowed to take the country back to its recent authoritarian past, is driving a resurgence of netizen activism that has not only surprised Korean politicians but American government officials as well.

This resurgence of democratic activism in South Korea is setting an important example for how the Internet and netizens can help in the struggle for more democracy and against the neoliberal agenda. A 72-hour demonstration was held from June 5-7 and continued afterward. [5] Another demonstration is planned for Tuesday, June 10, to mark the 21st anniversary of the democratic uprising in South Korea that ended the military autocratic rule.
Several members of the on-line collective Jinbonetwere arrested and held for 48 hours (the maximum for police to hold people without trial.)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Korean Community Radio Suspended as English Service is Promoted

Community radio in Korea doesn't have a long history. The pilot project for community radio started in 2005. During the relatively short period of three years after the initiation, community radio has successfully encouraged locals to participate in the broadcasting, giving social minorities the opportunity to tell their own stories. However, in spite of this accomplishment, the regular project for community radio is not in practice yet. Originally, the regular project was supposed to start two years ago, but the government has been delaying it with the excuse of insufficient frequency range. In the pilot project, the allowed output of power for a sender is merely 1W(radio wave range of 500m ~ 1km in radius). It's hardly heard anywhere. The locals have constantly demanded bigger output, but the government has denied it, saying that would jam up the frequency.
However, what a surprise! The government, who has insisted there is not enough frequency range, suddenly decided to promote the English FM for foreign residents in the country. It will have the output of staggering 1 kw, which is 1,000 times bigger than what is allowed for community radio. Moreover, They are trying to make 4 of them at the same time. What happened to the 'insufficient frequency range' they have kept saying? "Let there be English FM," said the president, and it took only one month for some spared frequency range to appear out of nowhere.
Community radio, for which a great amount of efforts and sacrifices have been made, is now in the crisis of abolition. In December last year, a research for frequency demand was carried out by Korea Communications Commission, and 29 communities spent their own time and money to find available frequency ranges and submitted the application. 6 months have passed since, but the result of the research has never been announced, and the regular project won't start without it. And now with the English FM being promoted, even less chance for getting frequency will be given to the community radio. The communities that have tried for several years to establish their radio station is now suspicious of the government's true intention. They are arbitrarily using the public asset of frequency for the one-sided promotion of English FM, and seriously violating the basic right of access and participation in the broadcast.
Lately, community radio activists have made 'the Council for Community Radio.' The Council demands that the government should stop the English FM project and start the regular project for community radio as soon as possible. For this purpose, they will fight the government in every available way, including a lawsuit against the English FM. They will also request the result of the frequency demand research, and claim for damages that was done to the communities. ---- from the Mediact Newsletter: CHAE-EUN PARK, staff of policy & research department, MEDIACT Trans. by JAE-HWAN OH