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China blocks Naver Cafe, blogs

Some blogs were reporting rumors about Xi’s ally

Oct 23,2018
A web page on GreatFire, a non-profit organization that monitors China’s censorship, shows China blocking Naver’s blog sites. [SCREEN CAPTURE]
China’s censorship of foreign websites has reached Korea’s largest web portal, Naver. Starting from Oct. 16, access to Naver’s blogs and online communities, dubbed “Naver Cafe,” were blocked in China for nearly a week.

Large global websites like Google, Facebook and YouTube are all blocked in China.

“Starting from the morning of [Oct. 16], connections in China [for cafe and blog services] were not working smoothly. We found that the problem is not an internal error,” Naver said in a statement released Friday.

A source at Naver told the JoongAng Ilbo that the company doesn’t have plans to request an explanation or file a complaint to Chinese authorities.

“We shared information on the case with the Ministry of Science and ICT,” said another company spokesman on Monday. “We don’t have direct access to the Chinese internet so we’re also monitoring the situation through people who live there.”

Naver’s blog and cafe can still be reached in China by circumventing the block through a service called a VPN, or virtual private network.

Nonetheless, Koreans living in the country are complaining as the main route of local information in their native language has become more difficult to reach.

“I use blogs frequently because of my job and [the blockage] is a nuisance,” said one member of a major Naver site for sharing local information in China.

Apart from the blog and cafe, all other Naver services are working, including V Live where Korean celebrities hold live video chats with fans.

Nobody knows the exact reason for why China has blocked Naver’s blogs and cafes. The Naver spokesman said the company has received no notice about the block. Some assume it’s related to the Chinese authorities’ effort to crack down on criticism of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In the last few weeks, several Naver blogs have carried rumors that Wang Qishan, China’s vice president and close ally of Xi, may be linked to the disappearance of actress Fan BingBing and Alibaba Group co-founder Jack Ma’s announcement to resign from chairman next year. In the stories, Fan was Wang’s secret lover and Wang requested that Ma give him Alibaba stock.

According to GreatFire, a non-profit organization fighting China’s online censorship, 177 websites among the top 1,000 most visited websites online are blocked in China. The list includes media outlets like The New York Times, BBC, South China Morning Post and social media networks like Facebook and Instagram. With so many blocked websites, China’s internet is regarded by some as more of a “huge intranet” on a national scale.

This is not the first time a Korean website has been blocked in China. Messenger apps Line and Kakao Talk abruptly stopped working there in July 2014.

After a month, the Science Ministry received a reply from Chinese authorities that the blocks were due to revelations that both services were found to be channels of information related to terror activities.

The ministry had said at the time that it would continue talking with China about unblocking the services, but that never happened.


BY SHIN KYUNG-JIN AND SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]


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