[EDITORIALS]The Internet jungle

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[EDITORIALS]The Internet jungle

The whole nation is shocked at the news that a woman in her 20s has been arrested in Anyang, Gyeonggi province, on charges of contracting over the Internet for someone to kill her mother. The woman's mother was reportedly nagging her about her shopping sprees.

According to the police report, the accused woman met a man online at a domestic Web site and asked him to kill her mother, offering him 90 million won ($68,000) that she said she would raise by selling her apartment. The man, in turn, allegedly contacted a high school student online; the student carried out the murder.

This case was no aberration. Three "contract killer" groups have been started on domestic Web sites since last November. These groups, with about 30 members each, were shut down by the police, but they had hundreds of visitors before they were shuttered. The possibility of "copycat" crimes still exists. The online communities in question advertised "100 percent secrecy of the client's identity" and boasted, "For 15 to 30 million won, we can kill the person you want."

Cyberspace is too vast for any monitoring or regulation. We still do not know if there are now other online sites somewhere out there that promote such heinous crimes. Last year, online sites giving instructions on how to commit suicide or make bombs appeared. Our shock was doubled when sites teaching techniques to kill people and how to acquire murder weapons were found online.

Such sites can have a tremendous effect on youth and other impressionable minds. Even if real crimes do not flow from them, experts warn of the grave implications of having our children exposed to an anti-social and amoral cyber world that promotes contempt and scorn for life and human rights.

The authorities must find ways to impose stricter supervision and regulation on the Internet and seek a comprehensive solution, cooperating with nongovernment groups and the international community.

Young people themselves must be taught to guard themselves against the imminent dangers that can lurk in online communities. That teaching should begin in elementary school and continue through middle and high school.

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