Police track online war rumor to boy

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Police track online war rumor to boy

A 16-year-old boy who allegedly started an online rumor that South Korea was preparing to make a pre-emptive military attack on the North is now under investigation by Seoul police.

The false message reportedly spread to some tens of thousands of teenagers across the country in the space of several hours, drawing police attention.

Officers from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency’s cyber crime unit tracked down the source of the message, and summoned the high school student for intentionally spreading a false rumor through an online messenger, which they said constitutes a violation of local telecommunication laws.

Police said yesterday that the boy, resident of Yeosu, South Jeolla, identified only by his surname, Yoo, sent 15 friends an online message that South Korea had decided to “make a pre-emptive military attack on North Korea” because it was “only a matter of time” until the North, fully prepared for war, invaded.

“All males over the age of 17 should take part in the battle and all schools will be shut down,” read the message sent at 11:23 p.m. on May 26.

Yoo allegedly sent his message as military tensions between the two Koreas made headlines after Seoul blamed Pyongyang for sinking South Korea’s Cheonan warship. Yoo reportedly told police he wanted to “fool people.”

Yoo’s friends soon started relaying the message to their own friends, police said. The spread of the message increased exponentially as teenagers in South Chungcheong, Gyeonggi, Gangwon, Seoul, Busan and Incheon passed it to their own friends on in the following 48 minutes, before one of them, a 12-year-old elementary school student, posted it on the online board of a major Internet portal site.

Police said they would determine whether to charge the boy after consulting with prosecutors.

By Jung Ha-won [hawon@joongang.co.kr]
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