A law for Choi Jin-sil

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A law for Choi Jin-sil

The Internet is inundated with insults, defamations and groundless rumors. This must be corrected. Actress Choi Jin-sil’s suicide reconfirms the urgency of the task. It is said that Choi suffered from depression after her divorce. Added to her burden were recent rumors in cyberspace that linked her to Ahn Jae-hwan, another actor who also recently committed suicide. It is reported that the night before she died, Choi cried and told her mother she was disappointed with people and asked why they made up rumors that she was a loan shark. After her death, even more rumors sprang up, such as, “She probably committed suicide because she was afraid the rumors would turn out to be true.”

Recently, an increasing number of people are targets of insulting remarks and rumors on the Internet. Singer Yuni and actress Jung Da-bin committed suicide in January and February, last year. It was revealed that they were also the targets of ill-intended Internet remarks. The case was the same with a high school student who appeared in a TV program in June 2007 as an example of someone who successfully lost weight. Later, a picture of her with a popular boy band was released and the band’s fans attacked and insulted her. In the end, she chose to kill herself.

In Korea, some 35,360,000 people, or 77.1 percent of the total population, use the Internet. Some 70 percent of all households have Internet broadband service. However, the culture of Internet dialogue and discussions has gone way beyond freedom of speech.

The people’s worries prove this. According to a survey on 4,560 students, parents and teachers conducted by the national commission for youths in 2006, 73.6 percent of the respondents said they were afraid of abuse in cyberspace. Among high school students, the number was 84.7 percent.

That’s why it is good that the Korea Communications Commission wants to expand the real-name system on the Internet. We believe that the real-name system should be used more widely so that people are not tempted to make ill-intended remarks on the Internet behind a veil of anonymity.

The government and the ruling party are pushing for the establishment of a new law about contempt on the Internet and that is worth examining. Under criminal law, contempt occurs when someone insults another person face-to-face. This makes it difficult to punish those who insult other people online. As insulting words on the Internet spread to the public more easily and more rapidly than spoken ones, the new law should treat Internet libel the same as printed libel.

We can’t simply wait for netizens to become more ethical. It is urgent to regulate people who start groundless rumors and hurl insults from behind closed doors. It is time to establish the Choi Jin-sil law to regulate and prohibit abuse on the Internet.
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