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Korean censorware plans draw fire

Controversy continues to surround Korean government plans to block both
domestic and overseas websites.

The Korean Ministry of Information and Communication is pushing a special Internet ordinance that essentially would require blocking software to be installed in cybercafes and other public computing facilities. A special Information Communication Ethics Committee already has drawn up a list of some 119 000 "anti social" sites that they deem objectionable. This list, which apparently includes numerous overseas webpages, will soon we provided to software developers for incorporation within blocking packages.

Authorities will also work with Internet service providers to make sure access to any questionable webpages will be denied; criminal penalties will be levied on those who aid and abet access to such sites. However, many questions about this plan have yet to be answered, including what criteria will be used to determine which sites should be blocked, or even the precise pages that have banned.

The measure, which is expected to take effect this July, has drawn heavy criticism over its potentially damaging impact on freedom of expression. Some of these concerns were aired in a recent meeting at the Sejong Cultural Art Center in Seoul; at the event, Chang Yeo Kyung from Jinbonet argued that the proposal will not protect children, but will only ensure "that the rights of parents and the public will be seriously violated." Opponents of the ordinance specifically focused on how virtually all blocking programs were prone to errors and tended to block many sites that had no controversial content whatsoever. These groups are now suing in court in the hopes of striking down the new restrictions.

See Kim Deok-hyun, "120,000 Internet sites blacklisted," Korea Times, May
2, 2001 at

See also Kim Deok-hyun, "Internet Filtering Ordinance Spurs New Debate,"
Korea Times, Apr. 23, 2001 at

Read "Seoul taking action against foreign pornographic sites," Korea
Herald, Apr. 11, 2001 at