KOREA: North Koreans Criticize Seoul's Block on Pro-Pyongyang Web Sites
North Korean journalists' association says that blocking pro-Pyongyang sites violates South Korean constitutional rights, as debate continues
The Korea Times
Friday, November 26, 2004
By Park Song-wu
A journalists' association in North Korea has slammed Seoul for blocking access to pro-Pyongyang Web sites, arguing that it violates South Koreans' constitutional rights.
Pyongyang's Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted the association's statement Thursday as saying that Seoul's decision to cut access to 31 Web sites, including uriminzokkiri.com, is a "wicked" attempt to drive inter-Korean relations back into a past era of confrontation.
The North claimed it has operated uriminzokkiri to help South Koreans get a true picture of North Korea.
But a lawmaker in Seoul told The Korea Times yesterday that it is not yet appropriate to open all cyber channels to the North.
"I put my trust in our Web users and I believe they will not be swayed by reading and watching materials on those Internet sites," Rep. Chung Moon-hun of the opposition Grand National Party said. "But I still think it's not a good time to throw open everything, including the Web site of Kim Il-sung University."
The Ministry of Information and Communication in Seoul blocked access to 31 pro-Pyongyang Internet sites based in foreign countries on Nov. 15, just days after a local daily reported that the North's Kim Il-sung University began offering Internet distance learning, targeting young people in the South.
But Chung said other North Korean Web sites that are considered helpful in promoting inter-Korean relations should remain open to the public.
"For example, chosunexpo.com is still accessible and should not be blocked because it is designed to introduce North Korean goods to the world," Chung said.
It is currently illegal to visit any Web sites run by the Pyongyang regime, but the government has chosen not to block Web sites free of ideological content, like chosunexpo.com.
Chung submitted a revision bill to the parliament in July to enable South Koreans to have open access to North Korean Web sites that are free from propaganda.
Currently, South Koreans must get approval from the Unification Ministry before or after they visit a North Korean Internet site. If they do not, they will be subject to a maximum three-year prison term or a fine of 10 million won ($8,600).
Date Posted: 11/26/2004