The South Korean government on Tuesday dismissed the appeal to unblock a North Korea technology-focused website, which was blocked for violating the nation’s law against pro-North Korean activities.
The Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC) has blocked access to North Korea Tech since March 24, as requested by the National Intelligence Service (NIS), South Korea’s Media Today reported.
The South Korean civil organization Open Net filed an appeal but three of five members of the commission voted to dismiss it. Those three are recommended by the government and ruling party, while two are recommended by the opposition party.
North Korea Tech is well-known among journalists covering North Korea, posting on various topics including Pyongyang’s satellite launches, missile technology and newly developed computer operating systems.
The NIS suggested that three articles on the website – “Completed satellite command center revealed in TV images,” “The slow search for Kwangmyongsong 4” and “Koryolink said to have 3 million subscriptions” – not only introduce North Korean media reports, but actually support the superiority of the socialist system and praise the leadership of Kim’s family.
Martyn Williams, who operates the website, expressed his regret.
“It’s really unfortunate that the KCSC can’t tell the difference between propaganda and analytical material,” Williams told NK News.
Cho Young-ki, a member in the commission was suspicious of the website’s ownership, suggesting that the North Korean government may be involved in the website. Cho is one of the three members on the commission recommended by the ruling party and president’s office.
“Citing North Korea’s propaganda activity makes the decision reasonable,” said Cho in a remark carried by a local media, who is also serving as a professor at Korea University’s Department of North Korean Studies, adding that “we should ponder why a UK citizen has a deep interest in North Korea.”
Williams called this remark “so stupid it doesn’t need a response.”
Distributing information about North Korea has been politically sensitive issue in South Korea, as seen by the controversy regarding government-designated history textbooks.
Seoul also blocks North Korea’s official news and online propaganda outlets.
While South Korean news agencies and mainstream broadcasting services publish North Korean materials and video clips, it became problematic for North Korea Tech to include links connected to North Korean websites.
“According to article seven of the National Security Act, it should include praise and encouragement of North Korean ideology to violate the law,” lawyer Son Ji-won, who is advocating Williams, told NK News.
“It is suspicious whether KCSC reads the posts on the website carefully,” she said. “It is not legally agreed whether it is illegal to link to North Korean sites.”
In 2012, a Twitter user was accused of violating the law by distributing Uriminzokkiri links, but was later found not guilty.
Williams said he will continue fighting to unblock his site in South Korea. It is still possible to reverse the decision via lawsuit.
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