Trouble in cyberspace

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Trouble in cyberspace

It is shocking that an online columnist who identified himself as “Minerva” turned out to be a 31-year-old unemployed man whose surname is Park, according to prosecutors. Park, a young man who was not professionally trained in economics, was able to anonymously criticize the government’s economic policy and become an Internet star.

This clearly shows the negative side of cyber culture. It is time we figure out the problems in online communications and come up with improvement plans.

The debate that immediately arose after Park’s arrest is whether prosecutors’ investigation is excessive. Prosecutors intend to charge Park with spreading false rumors, but some point out this is unfair when there are thousands of other Internet users who spread false rumors and go unpunished.

Prosecutors intend to charge Park because of just one of over 100 postings he made online. After officials filed for a detention warrant for Park, the debate over excessive measures has grown further. There needs to be a cool balanced judgment on whether or not detaining Park for investigation is appropriate in terms of the constitutional freedom of speech and fairness of the law.

However, the significance of this case is not limited to the simple punishment of one person. It is urgent to reconsider the Internet culture where the more secretive an author is and the more sensational his statements, the more popular he becomes among Internet users.

Such a cyber culture only encourages societal regression and a crisis of trust. In that respect, the Democratic Party’s intention to form a group of inspectors to develop the Minerva case into a political issue is not desirable. The DP seems to want to use the case as justification to oppose the enactment of a bill to punish cyber defamation and another bill to require the use of real names on the Internet.

In a survey by a media research firm, Real Meter, in December, 62.3 percent of respondents said they agree with the cyber defamation law. Apart from political gains or losses, we should all try to maintain our freedom of speech but to minimize the Internet’s negative side effects.

At a time when the world views Korea as an information technology leader, we should find ways to improve online users’ ability to use the Internet properly and come up with comprehensive laws to prevent Internet abuse. The principles of democracy - particularly that freedom and responsibility are inseparable - apply even to the Internet.
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