Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Google Is Facing Wrath Of Korean Government Over Snub Of Internet Law

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 17, 2009

Koo Bonkwo, reporter for the Korean newspaper Hankyoreh, reports that Google is facing an investigation for its refusal to abide by a law that it must verify the real names of Korean users if they upload files or leave comments.

Google disabled its YouTube Korea site so that no one can upload videos or leave comments and so that it wouldn't have to collect people's real names. Google said the law was against its principles of supporting free expression on the Internet.

It said Koreans could still upload videos and leave comments by using other countries' version of YouTube.

The Korean government however, is reported to be angry by Google's actions. The Hankyoreh reports:

"... Korea Communications Commission Chairman Choi See-joong, a close aide and personal mentor to the president, says he has ordered a legal review of Google. This order follows the company’s decision to voluntarily disable the upload and comment functions of its YouTube Korea site, something he called sang’eop-jeok nun garigo aung, translating to something approximate to a “transparent commercial move." An official with the KCC confirmed that the legal review would investigate whether or not "Google has engaged in illegal activities in any of the various services it operates in South Korea." ..."

Google has a tiny share of the Korean market and it appears to be using its stand against the 'real name verification' law to win new users among Koreans that want to bypass the same law:

"...On Wednesday, the National Assembly Research Service issued a report in which it mentions the possibility that South Korea’s internet portal companies could suffer if the current bills to revise internet regulations are made into law as it may prompt large numbers of “cyber defections” in which Korean internet users flock to overseas portals...."

The South Korean government is trying to clamp down on opponents through new laws that provide its agencies with unprecedented levels of monitoring and regulation. Koreans are worried that the government's actions are harming the country's image:

"...the standing regulations also hurt the Internet industry and are giving South Korea an international reputation for being a country that suppresses the freedom of expression...."

- - -
Please see:
South Korea Could Be Showing Us A Sneak Peak Into Our Future

"...The Koreans are dealing with many issues that result from living in a society that lives far more in an online world than we do. It will take the US several years to catch up.

Hopefully, the Koreans can figure out how to deal with Big Brother governments and other societal issues, before we get to the same stage...."


The Korea Times: Is Korea Turning Into Internet Police State?


"....According to the draft, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), the country's spy agency, gets expanded surveillance power that allows real-time interception of mobile phone and Internet communication, compared to current law that limits monitoring to fixed-line telephone calls.


All communication operators, including telephony carriers and Internet companies, will be required to operate surveillance equipment and save call recordings and log-on records of their users.


The bill also enables law enforcement authorities to collect and monitor location-based information, or Global Positioning System (GPS) records, of civilians. Considering that GPS capabilities are increasingly included in the latest mobile phones and portable Internet devices, a fast-growing number of people would be susceptible to investigators tracking their real-time movements..."


The Hankyoreh: "[Analysis] Google chooses its credibility over profit in South Korea


"...Some analysts have suggested that it would be too burdensome for Google to challenge South Korea’s Internet policies because the government had promised 1.2 billion won (911,200 dollars) in research and development support, and the possibility of more through online advertising business...."


Korean Presidential Office Bypasses Real Name Law - Posts Videos On Foreign YouTube


"Google managed to avoid this law by disabling uploads and comments on its Korean version of YouTube, while at the same time telling people that they could continue anonymous uploads and commentary by accessing other countries' YouTube sites.


It seems that this is the preferred method for the Presidential office of South Korea, the Cheong Wa Dae.


....The Korean newspaper The Hankyoreh reports that the Presidential office, of South Korea, the Cheong Wa Dae, has been using this loophole to post PR videos of President Lee Myung-bak...."


Google Tests The Limits Of Governments - Bars Korean Users From Uploading Videos And Leaving Comments


"....Rachel Whetstone, vice president of Global Communications & Public Affairs at Google, offered in a statement posted on Google Korea's Website the reason why the company has refused to comply to the real-name system. In a statement titled, "Freedom of Expression on the Internet," Whetstone said, "Google thinks the freedom of expression is most important value to uphold on the internet." Whetstone continued to say, "We concluded in the end that it is impossible to provide benefits to internet users while observing this country's law because the law does not fall in line with Google's principles."..."


Updated: Google Says It Is Still Examining Korea's Real-Name Verification Law


"...Google wouldn't have much to lose if it stood up to the Korean government. It's YouTube business isn't profitable, so no shareholders would be hurt. It could argue that its servers aren't housed in South Korea and therefore it doesn't have to comply with the local law.It would be a bold statement and it would focus world attention on the South Korean government and its efforts to curb its citizens from using the Internet to criticize politicians. A bold stand from Google might even discourage other governments from following with similar laws...."

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