[EDITORIAL] Internet Safety Is Necessary

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[EDITORIAL] Internet Safety Is Necessary

The rapid spread of the Internet has brought with it such abuses as antisocial Web sites devoted to suicide, the manufacture of explosives and the like. Not long after a ninth-grader who was a heavy Internet user took his life, a sixth-grader who also appears to have connected to a suicide site jumped to his death from his family's apartment. Another ninth-grader who was operating a paid-membership Web site that explained how to make explosives has been caught by the police.

Believe it or not, there is even a site that teaches visitors how to gather the necessary materials and put together a bomb meant to blow up a car that parks illegally in front of one's house. In spite of a crackdown by the Information Communi-cation Ethics Committee and criminal investigation agencies that has been going on since last year, sites devoted to suicide remain particularly intractable.

The problem is that children, who are very impressionable and lack mature judgment, are easily exposed to such sites, but it is not easy technologically to block access to them. There are some sites that purport to prevent entry by minors, but the methods used, such as requiring the visitor to enter his Resident's Registration Number, are pitifully ineffective. It is said that there are cases in which the perpetrators have to be released without any action being taken against them because of a lack of regulations governing such recent phenomena. On top of this, the Korean authorities have no jurisdiction over foreign sites or Korean-language sites on servers overseas.

Public prosecutors and the police have decided to increase their efforts to investigate such sites, but they must be careful not to act indiscriminately lest they infringe on the right to free speech. The number of Internet users in Korea is close to 20 million, more than 3 million of whom have high-speed access, and this popularity is explained for the most part by the positive aspects of the Internet.

Rather than depending only on crackdowns, the government, Internet service providers, the schools and families should develop systems for overseeing Internet use on an everyday basis. More than anything else, companies offering such Internet services should make a greater effort to regulate themselves.

Laws and regulations governing the telecommunications business need to be revised and supplemented, and we need some better programs to educate students on Internet crime and ethics.
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