I want to share good things about Korean culture with others. I want to tell the world, “Hey, Korea is a great place. You should really make the folks at Korea’s tourism agency happy and come and visit.” In general, I think there’s a lot to see, do and learn here.
So I went to upload a video the other day of a traditional Korean instrument. What did I find? Due to a new South Korean “Internet Real-Name System” nobody in South Korea can any longer upload videos or even post comments on YouTube. WTF?
It turns out that Google voluntarily placed this block on South Korean users rather than submitting to South Korea’s newest Internet censorship law, called the “Internet Real-Name System.” Essentially, to use any website in South Korea you must register at the site with your national ID number (similar to the US social security number or the Canadian SIN–I didn’t make that acronym.) That way, the government can monitor all online activity of any of its citizens at any time, an idea that started when Korean “netizens” unsettled the Korean government in 2008 over beef importation concerns.
A side-effect of this system is that foreign residents in South Korea have difficulty with routine Internet tasks, such as listening to music, commenting, and registering for events. Since they don’t have Korean national ID numbers, all of these features become much more complicated and prone to page errors.
Now these page errors extend to the Internet giant, Google, too. Instead of rolling over to Korea’s newest net censorship, which would require all users in Korea to enter their national ID numbers so that their comments and videos could be tracked.
According to Korean independent media site, the Hankyoreh:
Rachel Whetstone, vice president of Global Communications & Public Affairs at Google, offered in a statement posted on Google Korea’s Website the reason why the company has refused to comply to the real-name system. In a statement titled, “Freedom of Expression on the Internet,” Whetstone said, “Google thinks the freedom of expression is most important value to uphold on the internet.” Whetstone continued to say, “We concluded in the end that it is impossible to provide benefits to internet users while observing this country’s law because the law does not fall in line with Google’s principles.”
So, good job South Korea. Instead of letting people talk up all the benefits of your country online, you have them bitterly ranting against yet another online social censorship law that makes all the many Internet connections in Korea (mostly used for online gaming) not worth 2 kilos of fetid Ukrainian Yak’s butter.