Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Internet Censorship in Korea

Update (06/15/2011): It has come to my attention that a substantial number of people find this blog entry by googling "KCSC warning translation." I'm always willing to give my public what they want (within reason), so without further ado I give you my translation of the KCSC warning page:

KCSC Warning
Concerning the blocking of illegal/harmful information (websites)
We advise you that the information (website) you are trying to access provides content which is illegal/harmful and access to this information (website) has been blocked.
This information (website) has undergone deliberation by the Korea Communications Commission and has been legally blocked in accordance with the laws related to the establishment and operation of the Korea Communications Commission. Any inquiries should be directed to the responsible agencies listed below.
CategoryAgency in ChargePhone
Security threatsCyber Police Agency1566 - 0112
GamblingCyber Police Agency1566 - 0112
Game Rating Board(02)2012-7877
PornographyKorea Communications Commission(02)3219 - 5286, 5155
Illegal drug salesKorea Food and Drug Administration, Pharmaceutical Management Division(043)719-2658
Illegal sales or false advertising of foodstuffs Korea Food and Drug Administration, Food Management Division(043)719-2058
Illegal  sales or false advertising of cosmetics Korea Food and Drug Administration, Cosmetics Policy Division(043)719-3407
Illegal sales of medical equipmentKorea Food and Drug Administration, Medical Device Management  Division(043)719-3762
Illegal sales of athletic promotional ticketsNational Gaming Control Commission(02)3704-0538
Illegal horseracing buying agenciesKorea Racing Authority(02)509-2164

You're welcome.
My original blog post is as follows:

I've returned from a week-long trip to the Kansai area. The purpose of this trip was mainly to visit friends and to file my tax return, which when delivered will more than make up for the cost of the trip. Also on my to-do list was a trip to the bookstore to stock up on Korea-related books in Japanese, for my future research purposes and for staying up to speed with reading kanji; and to save some items from DPRK-friendly websites that I can't access from Seoul.

As one of the odd holdovers from the dictatorship period, South Korea still restricts internet access to all DPRK propaganda sites as part of the National Security Law. These sites are freely visible from computers in Japan, despite Japan's much more hostile attitude toward the North Korean government. In South Korea, if you tried to visit, for example, the official KCNA website, or the Japanese-based site of Chosen Soren, in the past you would get the standard browser error warning. Sometime recently this must have changed, because now I get a scary-looking KCSC warning page.

The result is the same, I can't access the hyperbolic DPRK-praising websites which provided me so much amusement when I was living in Japan (the blocks can probably be avoided by using a proxy site, but the fact that it's illegal is enough to dissuade a poor immigrant like me). Aside from their entertainment value, I hope to use the articles in research to point out subtle changes in the tone of the rhetoric in response to outside pressures and events. So now that I live here in South Korea, I have to take the opportunity whenever I'm outside the country to download the juiciest tidbits from these sites for later perusing.
I always wonder how South Koreans feel about the fact that their country shares space on the small list of (mostly very repressive) nations which restrict access to internet sites for political reasons. It's surprising that this law has survived the 10-year period of the "Sunshine Policy" when the ROK wanted to warm up ties with its neighbor and worked very hard to promote friendly relations while curtailing any activity that might upset the North.

Recently, I tentatively asked one of my Korean friends what she thought of this, and she said she was not aware that the sites were restricted but she thought it was a good idea, since young people might stumble upon them and be suckered in by the DPRK propaganda machine. I'm floored by this view that young Korean people might be so naive and impressionable as to be swayed by the sort of clumsy rhetoric and sour-grapes name-calling on these websites (The Japanese are preparing to invade! The Americans are secret vampires who want to eat our children!). I suspect the reason the law survived is more a matter of the ROK not wanting the wider public to get on these sites and realize just how ridiculous and illogical their northern neighbor has become. It might lead to, I don't know, a lot of excessive pillorying by comics, movies and TV shows, and then the DPRK would get upset and expect the ROK government to do something about it.

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