South Korea is stepping up its investigation into Internet users that are praising North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and performing other “anti-state acts”.

South Korea operates strict laws with up to seven years in prison for any citizen that supports or encourages anti-state entities. North Korea is as anti-state as they come in South Korea, and the number of positive mentions of the country’s close neighbour has increased across the web in South Korea .

Officials leading the investigation claim that comments have gone “beyond what can be tolerated within the freedom of expression”.

Asia One details recent North Korea-related Internet activity.

According to a KCC report, the number of pro-North websites detected that were based overseas was 122. Forty-four are still operating while the rest have been shut down.

The number of those who were caught producing pieces of writing with expressions praising the North has steadily increased in recent years. The figure, which stood at 13 in 2003, increased to 22 in 2009 and 64 last year, according to the prosecution.

Despite the focus on fighting Internet users promoting North Korea, the South Korean government is planning a media campaign to promote the benefits of reunifying with its neighbour.

The crackdown comes after a boy rumoured to be North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il’s 17 year old grandson made waves across the Internet. His activity on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and other sites was picked by news organisations in South Korea and beyond, after his identity emerged after he joined a new school in Bosnia.

The teenager has since reduced his online profile, restricting access to and deleting a number of accounts that had been publicly available.