Fact-finding is the first step

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Fact-finding is the first step

The release of the names of members registered with a pro-North Korean Web site by the international hacking group known as Anonymous has shaken the South Korean society as it includes a host of South Korean members. Anonymous said that it had intended to send a message to Pyongyang to stop mounting nuclear threats and violating human rights.

Of 9,001 registered members of Uriminzokkiri - a North Korean propaganda Web site based in Shenyang, China - approximately 2,000 netizens registered with e-mail accounts of major local portal sites like Daum and Naver. Many e-mail accounts were also from household corporate names like Samsung and LG as well as major newspapers like the JoongAng Ilbo, Dong-A Ilbo and Chosun Ilbo.

The Seoul government in 2004 classified the site ran by the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, North Korea’s anti-South Korea propaganda agency, as being harmful and illegal. Therefore, access to the site is prohibited and membership registration is impossible from South Korea. Owners of the e-mail accounts could come under suspicion of illegal communist or pro-North Korea activities.

But it is hard to decipher whether those accountable for the e-mail addresses have really engaged in pro-North Korean activities. Many of them argue that they have never registered with the site and even claim their names and e-mail accounts have been stolen. Many membership also used e-mail addresses that no longer exist.

Our intelligence and law enforcement authorities should investigate thoroughly to get to the bottom of the story. They must first find out whether the members really exist and whether they registered with the site or their identities have been stolen. Then, they should investigate whether any of them actually violated the local law as active members of the site by posting anti-South Korea or pro-North Korea propaganda material on the site or downloading and spreading propaganda items on other local Web sites and social networking platforms. Those who turned out to have violated the National Security Law must be punished accordingly.

However, we must not turn the incident into a witch hunt for pro-North Korean activists. Accusing and harassing people without sound evidence is not only unjust but also could trigger social conflict in the country. We must refrain from jumping to conclusions until the government comes up with an official announcement on its investigation.
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