News / Asia

N. Korean Propaganda Appears on Popular Internet Social Media sites


North Korean propaganda has emerged on popular Internet social media sites. It is not for domestic consumption as virtually no North Korean has Internet access. Rather it is targeted at other countries, especially South Korea. But in the democratic South, considered the world's most connected country, the government blocks such content.

South Korea's Internet censors are working harder these days to keep up with an expanding number of Web sites showing material from or sympathetic to North Korea.

South Korea blocks such sites under laws forbidding dissemination of false information or activities against the state.

Bloggers such as Kim Sang-bum, of the on-line community Bloter, which focuses on digital technology, calls the censorship an over-reaction.

"I don't think it is necessary for our government to regulate citizens too tightly. South Koreans have become too sophisticated to fall for North Korean propaganda," he said. "We consider that kind of propaganda as rather silly."

South Korea's Communications Standards Commission and the National Police Agency declined requests for interviews.

Jeon Kyoung-woong is the former director of the Korea Internet Media Association, and an on-line journalist. Jeon says pro-Pyongyang material needs to be restricted because it is not as innocuous.

"There are actually forces inside South Korea supporting the North Korean regime," he said. "Some of them are in touch with North Korean spy groups. Thus the South Korean government sets restrictions on such on-line content."

South Korean Internet users must register with their real names. On the most popular web sites, anyone posting comments must register with their national identity number.

"The adoption of real-name system shows that the current government is excessively sensitive about political opinion on the Internet. I think the situation has become worse since the current government came into power."

Jeon, however, is less bothered.

"South Korean cyber police has been active for more than a decade," said Jeon. "Recently it feels like the cyber police are becoming increasingly active but that is only because it's being publicized by those subject to such restrictions. Political restrictions were actually tighter under the previous two governments."

While South Koreans can freely argue about to what degree on-line content here should be regulated, that is not an option in North Korea. Only a few people there are allowed Internet access. And the country only recently established its first full connection to the Internet.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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