South Korea is now turning on its own.
The public security division of the National Police Agency announced on Apr. 5 that it planned to investigate whether the people appearing on the membership roll obtained online were as represented and had in fact subscribed to the site.
Around 2,000 of the 9,001 names appearing on the list, which was released on Apr. 4 by the international hackers’ group Anonymous, used email addresses from South Korean portal sites such as Daum and Naver. Others had addresses associated with media companies and corporations like Samsung and LG. Already, some internet users have been searching the email addresses from the list and divulging the real names and affiliations of the people on it, whom they accuse of “aiding the enemy.” Among them are reporters and officials with the Korean Teachers’ and Education Workers’ Union and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).
It’s not just government agencies conducting the investigations. Right-wing vigilantes are joining the witch hunt.
An extremely conservative online community called ‘Daily Best’ has already started to try and figure out who the registered users are, asserting that it includes members of South Korea’s left wing Unified Progressive Party and the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union.
Meanwhile, an official from South Korea’s National Intelligence Service commented, “Nothing has been confirmed as yet, and we are currently in the middle of the investigation. If [such progressive figures] had joined and were involved in activities then it would be a violation of the National Security Law, but just being a member is also a violation of the law.”
Well, that’s a matter for democratic debate.
The legal grounds are also fuzzy. Membership with and accessing of a propaganda website are not sufficient grounds to conclude that someone violated the National Security Act.
Charges can only be filed once it has been verified what the user’s purpose was – such as downloading information from the site or distributing it to the outside – and whether it constitutes aid to North Korea.
A more fundamental question is whether Uriminzokkiri is an “enemy-aiding” group at all. A prosecutor said this would be a difficult conclusion to reach based on the site’s nature at present.
“To charge someone with forming or joining a group to aid the enemy, you would need to see whether they were engaged in ‘offline’ activities and have their own platform and rules,” the prosecutor explained.
Another source with the police’s investigation said, “I think it’s going to take a long time just to see what the law says.”
How could this happen in a modern, democratic country?
Partly because the tyranny of North Korea is so horrific, it is often lost on people that South Korea’s own fascist tyranny in the recent past was not much better than North Korea’s communist tyranny, and the traces of such fascism still exert strong influences in South Korea. So we might soon see the tragicomedic spectacle of more than 2,000 South Koreans lined up to be prosecuted for daring to browse through a North Korean website.
South Koreans are law abiding and generally skeptical about North Korea. This witch hunt just makes no sense, and it should be a popular priority to correct this legal disgrace. It’s embarrassing for me to have any associations with this tiny country full of fascists.