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‘Cyber terror’ prompts call for end to online anonymity

June 15,2005
The growing public issue of harrassment and defamation by anonymous Internet users ―or “cyber terror,” as Koreans have begun calling it ― is leading some people to call for laws requiring Internet users to use their real names online.
A 70-year-old comedian named Twist Kim offered his own “cyber terror” story at a seminar yesterday sponsored by the Group to Cultivate a Mature Society, a civic group founded by senior citizens.
Several years ago, Mr. Kim said, his granddaughter told him that she had heard he was running an Internet pornography site. “My friends at school tease me because you’re trading naked women online,” Mr. Kim said the young girl told him. “I’m not going to school, starting tomorrow.”
When Mr. Kim ― who said he had been “indifferent to the Internet” before then ― typed his full name in a search engine, he said, dozens of pornography sites popped up.
He complained to police, he said, but they told him there was little they could do, because most of the sites were hosted by overseas servers. He tried to sue the operators of the sites, he said, but then rumors began to spread on the Internet that the real reason for his lawsuits was that he was quarreling with his partners in the pornographic Web sites.
Mr. Kim yesterday blamed the slander for his failure in recent years to get job offers in movies or television. He said some of his family members have been suffering from depression, and that he himself attempted suicide two months ago.
“I feel extreme anger about this cyber terror, committed by those who care little about others’ pride and lives,” said Mr. Kim. “Legal and institutional measures are necessary to prevent cyber terror.”
Similar cases of defamation or harrassment ―including cases in which harrassment has spilled over into the “offline” world, as victims of smear attacks find their telephone numbers or workplace addresses distributed online ―have led the Ministry of Information and Communication to argue that “netizens” should have to use their real names.
“With the sharp growth in recent cyber terror attacks, a need for using real names on the Internet is growing,” Minister of Information and Communication Chin Dae-je said yesterday.
Numerous civic groups, however, have opposed such a policy, fearing infringement of freedom of expression.
Many Korean portal sites, e-mail services and Web sites already require users to submit their legal names and identification numbers.


by Hong Joo-hee


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