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Prosecution confirms ‘Minerva’ innocent

The prosecution has dropped its appeal against Park Dae-sung, better known as online economic pundit “Minerva,” Tuesday, earlier acquitted of charges stemming from the posting of online articles denouncing government financial policies.

The move came after the Constitutional Court last month ruled the relevant law unconstitutional, freeing Park and several others who had been indicted for spreading “groundless rumors” online.

According to the Seoul High Court, the prosecution filed for the cancellation of the appeal on Dec. 30, reinforcing Seoul Central District Court’s verdict of not guilty.

Park was indicted in 2009 for posting online comments critical of the incumbent Lee Myung-bak government between July and December 2008. He instantly garnered fame for his predictions, including the fall of Lehman Brothers and the plunge of the won against the U.S. dollar, though some of his other predictions were later proven wrong.

Investigators sought his conviction based on the law to do with spreading misleading information with the intention of “damaging the public interest” through telecommunication infrastructure including the Internet. The law mandated fines of up to 50 million won ($40,000) or up to five years imprisonment. Investigators claimed Minerva’s articles agitated investors in Korea.

However, the local court cleared Park of the charges based on the constitutional right to expression and the fact that he had no intention of harming the public interest. Moreover, the Constitutional Court concluded that the term “public interest” is ambiguous and violates the constitutional principle of being “clear.”

The prosecution’s move is expected to affect other cases pending at the court.

A university student identified by his surname Kang was indicted last month for distributing a text message that read, “All reserve service forces will be drafted immediately because a war is about to break out” when North Korea shelled the western island of Yeonpyeong in November. The first hearing was held Tuesday.

By Bae Ji-sook (