Abusing numbers: is Korea going just too far?
By Oh Byoung-il
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, 13 December 2005
Is another big ‘Big Brother’ emerging out of Korean cyberspace, this time in the shape of the internet real-name system? South Korea’s Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) officially announced on September 12, the that it would introduce the internet real-name system as a counter-measure against problems of cyber violence and start a legislative process regarding this system.
Many Korean human-rights and civil society organizations, including internet journalists and the media, are showing a strong and united resistance against this plan, though.
South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea is a country located in East Asia, in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. It has a population of 48.4 million.
The Internet real-name system is a kind of certification system to verify each name and national identity (ID) number of all authors who plan to post messages on internet bulletin boards.
If this system is established by law, internet users would need to provide their identification, such as their real-name and ID numbers, before posting a message. There are many criticisms regarding this system from human rights and civil society organizations.
Firstly, the internet real-name law fundamentally prohibits anonymity of expression, which can be considered as a form of pre-censorship.
This also infringes the freedom of expression which is guaranteed by the Korean Constitution’s Article 21. Moreover, government officials or the website administration could easily monitor an author’s writings using this system, and this would infringe the confidentiality of communication.
Secondly, this system also restricts discussions and opinions from netizens, which also infringes freedom of the press.
Thirdly, the internet real-name system will use the national ID database to verify real names. This infringes the people’s right to privacy which is guaranteed by Article 17 of the Constitution.
Fourthly, anyone who is not subscribed to the national ID database, would be blocked from uploading their opinion into cyberspace, which restricts people’s freedom of political expression. This, again, violates the right to equality, which is guaranteed by Constitution Article 11.
This system also infringes the right to control one’s own personal information. This violates one’s right to pursuit of happiness.
If the government can easily monitor and conduct surveillance on internet users’ activities, it would raise the spectre of another ‘Big Brother’ looming on the cyber-horizon. This system was already nominated as the most notorious candidate for the 2005 Big Brother Awards in South Korea, to be held on November 22.
About 30 organizations including the Korean Progressive Network ‘Jinbonet’, MEDIACT, People’ Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, Citizens’ Action, Korean Internet Journalists Association and Workers Union of National IT industry etc. have took out protesting actions against this system such as press conference and demonstration.
Civil society organizations are also preparing to lobby members of the national assembly.
The Bill proposal by the government has not yet been made public, but is expected to be unveiled soon. When this happens, one could expect strong struggles against the internet real name system to guarantee the freedom of expression, right to privacy and communication rights on the internet.