Follow the bad law, for nowA controversy is swirling over postings on Web sites regarding the presidential election. The National Election Commission has announced that any postings supporting or opposing certain candidates can not be made after June 22, 180 days before the election.
The commission has begun investigating violations. According to the elections law, a person who violates this regulation will be punished by a fine of up to 4 million won ($4,300) and imprisonment of up to two years.
Postings on any Internet portal, the replies and an individual’s blogs can be investigated.
Internet users have protested vigorously against this regulation. Telephone calls and letters of complaint have poured into the commission. Sometimes, a person will even clarify which candidate he or she supports, then call on the commission to arrest him. In practice, the commission hardly does anything unless a posting comes up repeatedly. Among 19,750 postings that the NEC has found on the Web sites, most of them were just deleted. The commission requested further investigation on only 13 cases in which they believe false news was spread.
Internet users maintain that they are main players in the election so they must be allowed to express their opinions.
They have a point. While indifference to politics is a serious social problem, it is not right to prohibit political debate on the Internet. The law does not reflect reality very well, so it must be studied and changed. But before the law is revised, one must abide by the existing law. In particular, when the date of the election draws near, some people try to make the situation more favorable to them by violating the law and saying it is not reasonable, even though it is. Furthermore, the incumbent president who is supposed to protect the law violates the election law and criticizes it, paralyzing the law.
A sudden revision of the law would only make it difficult to hold and manage election campaigns, as well as the election itself. It is not a simple thing to start allowing postings on the Internet. Some might pay part-time workers to post replies to support a candidate or criticize their rival on false grounds. Due to the way the Internet is set up, it is hard to manage such replies and when things happen it is too late to fix the situation. That’s why the agencies concerned must take the time to examine the law. For now, the National Election Commission must clarify what is allowed under the current law to minimize the confusion that surrounds this regulation.