Police crack down on false-rumor spreaders

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Police crack down on false-rumor spreaders

After North Korea’s attack on Yeonpyeong Island, the South Korean government is cracking down on people who have and are still spreading false rumors about national security issues.

The Cyber Investigations Unit at the North Jeolla Provincial Police Agency is investigating a 34-year-old man surnamed Lee yesterday for writing on the Internet that the Yeonpyeong Island bombardment was provoked by South Korea.

According to the police, Lee posted a Web portal article at around 11:00 p.m. on Tuesday entitled “Conclusion: South Korea provoked first, North responded later,” hours after the artillery assault by North Korea.

Lee wrote: “The [South Korean] government stirred an enormous conflict in order to divert the public’s eyes from the ‘Daepo phone’ scandal and the four-rivers restoration project.”

The two news items are controversial issues for the Lee Myung-bak administration. About 380 Internet users read Lee’s posting before it was removed Wednesday afternoon.

Police said that during questioning, Lee told them, “After gathering a slew of information from newspaper and television reports, I came to the conclusion that the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island took place because South Korea ignored the North’s request to halt a military drill off the shared coast in the Yellow Sea, and carried out the Hoguk military exercise anyway. Thus, I wrote that on the Internet.”

Hoguk, meaning “defending the country,” is an annual drill.

Local police agencies in Busan and Yeosu, South Jeolla, also investigated two men yesterday for sending text messages to their friends saying they had to report for military duty. One of his friends reported the messages to the police. During police questioning, one of the two said, “I sent the messages to my friends just for fun.”

The government takes the spreading of false rumors seriously, especially when it relates to national security issues. The Seoul Central District Court fined a 28-year-old man named Kim 3 million won ($2,630) on Wednesday for sending text messages in May about an “emergency draft” to 10 of his friends following the sinking of the Cheonan warship in March. The court said, “Those who read the messages came to feel anxiety and fear as if war had occurred or come near, provoking serious anxiety in society.”

Prosecutors and several government agencies have been jointly monitoring communications and Internet posts since Tuesday.

By Yoo Sun-young [enational@joongang.co.kr]
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