South Korean man faces jail for retweeting North Korean Twitter messages

South Korean man faces jail for retweeting North Korean Twitter messages

A 24 year old man is facing up to seven years in jail in South Korea after he retweeted messages on Twitter that were sent by neighbouring North Korea’s government.

Update below with more details of the tweets.

According to a report from the AFP, Park Jeong-Geun has been detained as a national security threat since being arrested last month for re-tweeting the messages, which included “Long Live General Kim Jong-Il”. However, Park claims that he acted to ridicule the rival nation’s leaders rather than endorse the sentiments of the tweets.

Park is a member of the the South Korean Socialist Party which has regularly criticised the North Korean regime for the ill-treatment of its people. Nonetheless, he has been branded “an enemy” of his own country for his actions and, under Korean laws that prevent praise of its neighbour, he could be imprisoned for up to seven years.

Amnesty International (AI) has led calls for his release. In a statement Sam Zarifi, the organisation’s Asia-Pacific director, said:

This is not a national security case, it’s a sad case of the South Korean authorities’ complete failure to understand sarcasm.

Imprisoning anyone for peaceful expression of their opinions violates international law but in this case, the charges against Park Jeong-Geun are simply ludicrous and should be dropped immediately.

Zarifi further added that the laws, which were introduced to protect national security, are in fact being used to “intimidate people and limit their rights to free speech” in the country.

Last year South Korean authorities stepped up the crackdown on pro North Korean comments online after comments had gone “beyond what can be tolerated within the freedom of expression”.

North Korea has been using Twitter under the @uriminzok account since August 2010. The (open) Worldwide Web is heavily restricted in the communist state, where instead the population is given access to “Kwangmyong”. This closed network intranet hosts between 1,300 and 5,500 pages of information from state departments and can be accessed from public e-libraries and Internet cafes.

Park’s detention has similarities to a case in China, which saw a female activist sentenced to a year in labour camps for retweeting a satirical joke. AI led protests against the punishment which were ultimately unsuccessful.

Update: The New York Times has more details of the tweets sent by Park, including:

In his Twitter postings, Mr. 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 that 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.

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