Pro-North Web sites on foreign servers increase

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Pro-North Web sites on foreign servers increase

The number of Korean-language Web sites praising North Korea with servers abroad - and out of domestic authorities’ reach - is on the rise, according to a National Police Agency report released yesterday.

Since 2000, police have detected a total of 127 Web sites praising the North with servers in foreign countries and blocked access to 88 of them, the report said. The number of sites detected rose year by year, from nine in 2008 to 10 in 2009, 16 in 2010 and 22 as of October. Fifty-three sites had their servers in the United States, followed by 29 in Japan and 19 in China. The agency detected five sites with servers in North Korea.

Police said that the sites’ managers seemed to be attempting to evade domestic law by installing servers in foreign countries. And if site operators are outside of the country, police cannot charge them under current law.

From 2010, police also started to crack down on accounts from social networking services and found 33 accounts with pro-North messages in 2010 and 186 this year. All of the accounts were blocked under the National Security Law.

So far, police have blocked 292 Internet cafes, personal Web pages on South Korean portal sites such as Daum or Naver, on which members uploaded video clips or photos praising the North Korean regime. Police have deleted approximately 170,000 posts from the Internet communities so far and have charged 195 people for uploading these posts.

Police said they recently closed down two of these Internet cafes that were home to a total of 12,300 pro-North posts and are now investigating 32 members of the two sites on suspicion of praising the North Korean regime.

At least one participant on a Web site shut down by police has taken advocacy efforts offline. A member of the notorious pro-North Web site Sabangsa is now staying on the battered Yeonpyeong Island, spreading propaganda leaflets extolling North Korea to local residents, who are still suffering from the North’s artillery attack there last November.

“While the number of pro-North sites with servers in foreign countries is surging, police and the National Intelligence Service cannot exactly figure out the overall situation,” said Representative Shin Hak-yong of the Democratic Party. “Making the sites off limits is just a temporary action, and police should take fundamental measures against the sites in cooperation with foreign security authorities.”


By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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