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Prosecutors launch probe into online pro-N.K. activity

The South Korean prosecution has launched a sweeping investigation into Internet users carrying out anti-state acts including praising North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il, its military and society, officials said Tuesday.

The move comes as the number of pro-Pyongyang postings on websites based here and overseas has increased, which according to observers has threatened to undermine social order and incited other citizens to join their praise of the communist state.

Investigators believe that the content of the postings is “beyond what can be tolerated within the freedom of expression.”

The National Security Law sanctions up to seven years in jail for anyone who knowingly supports or encourages anti-state entities.

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office and related organizations including the National Police Agency and Korea Communications Commission plan to hold a meeting next month to discuss measures to jointly respond to online anti-state acts, officials said. 
A pro-North Korean Internet site closed by the government. (Yonhap News)
A pro-North Korean Internet site closed by the government. (Yonhap News)

“The number of cases ― in which those who hold grudges against South Korean society register postings online, threatening our democratic system ― has increased,” a prosecutorial official said, declining to be named.

“It is not just out of curiosity about the North Korean system. They appear to have done this without thinking that this could be illegal and constitute a crime.”

Among the recent cases, one man has been investigated for praising the North Korean social system and its leader Kim Jong-il about 120 times online from August until recently, according to investigators.

Last month, the prosecution investigated another man who allegedly praised the North’s “military-first” principle through his online postings, and exchanged email messages glorifying its hereditary power transfer process with others some 50 times.

According to a KCC report, the number of pro-North websites detected that were based overseas was 122. Forty-four are still operating while the rest have been shut down.

The number of those who were caught producing pieces of writing with expressions praising the North has steadily increased in recent years. The figure, which stood at 13 in 2003, increased to 22 in 2009 and 64 last year, according to the prosecution.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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