S Korean indicted for re-tweeting N Korea govt’s posts

Internet: S Korea says tweets benefit enemy; park says was mocking n korean regime: ‘humiliating to explain jokes to detectives’

Written by New York Times | Seoul | Published:February 3, 2012 1:01 am

CHOE SANG-HUN

South Korean prosecutors indicted a social media and freedom of speech activist this week for reposting messages from the North Korean government’s Twitter account.

Park Jung-geun,23,a photographer who specialised in taking pictures of babies,was detained last month on charges of violating South Korea’s controversial National Security Law,which bans “acts that benefit the enemy” —North Korea — but does not clearly define what constitutes such acts. The Twitter account Park was accused of reposting is run by the North Korean government website,Uriminzokkiri.com,which South Korean news media regularly cite for their stories.

“This is not a national security case; it’s a sad case of the South Korean authorities’ complete failure to understand sarcasm,” Sam Zarifi,Asia-Pacific director of the human rights group Amnesty International,said in a statement on Thursday. “Imprisoning anyone for peaceful expression of their opinions violates international law but in this case,the charges against Park are simply ludicrous and should be dropped immediately.”

Police detectives raided Park’s photo studio in eastern Seoul last fall. They later interrogated him several times for resending such North Korean propaganda postings as “Long Live Kim Jong-il!”

In his Twitter postings,Park compared himself to “The Young General,” the North Korean term for Kim Jong-un,because he inherited his photo studio from his father. He also posted Web links to North Korean propaganda songs. In a North Korean poster he altered and uploaded on Twitter,he replaced a swarthy North Korean soldier’s face with a downcast version of his own and the soldier’s rifle with a bottle of whisky.

In an interview in December,Park said his tweets were meant to lampoon the North Korean regime “as a joke.” Park,a member of the Korean Socialist Party,said he supported its platform,which criticised the Pyongyang government’s human rights policy and its hereditary transfer of power.

“It was humiliating and ludicrous to have to wear a straight face and explain all my jokes to the detectives,” said Park,who could face up to seven years in jail if convicted.

Prosecutors charged that joke or no joke,Park’s Twitter account served as a tool to spread North Korean propaganda.

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