So now, in order to post a comment saying “I respectfully disagree” on a Korea Times article for example, a Korean citizen must give their real name, social security number, and birth date to the Korea Times, because the Korean resident registration numbers include the person's birth date in the first six digits. Each web site must verify the number before granting access in the same way that companies verify credit cards, checking it against a logarithm for correctness, so fakes are rejected. Incidentally, the resident registration numbers that foreigners are issued are also rejected by the same system.
Reactions to this system have been extreme. Google Korea chose to sidestep the issue by blocking users of the Korean YouTube site from uploading videos or posting comments, angering the Korea Communication Commission (KCC). KInternet, an industry lobby of 150 Internet companies, including NHN, the operator of Naver, Daum, Google Korea, and Yahoo Korea, announced a statement denouncing the controversial action. Popular bloggers, some of whom had already closed down their Korea-based blogs in protest of the blogger Minerva being arrested earlier this year for spreading false rumors on the Internet, made quite a show of moving to sites such as blogger.com, which are hosted outside of Korea.
This is no way to run a democracy. According to the official statement by Google Korea, the issue is with the freedom of expression on the Internet, which is why they chose to block all content contributions from YouTube Korea. The response from the KCC, according to an anonymous official, was that the KCC was “in an uproar” over Google's April 9 decision. “The people higher up said that they could not just leave Google alone and told us to find something to punish them with, so the related team is researching possible illegalities,” the official said, according to the online edition of the Hankyoreh. In the spirit of this new brand of highly-regulated online communiation, it would only be fair for this nameless KCC official to submit his first and last name and social security number to this magazine at his earliest convenience.
In a country with such advanced Internet infrastructure, whose citizens used to poke fun at their Chinese neighbors for the Great Firewall of China, this paradigm shift is nothing short of repulsive. The heavy-handed actions of this administration against the freedom of expression on the Internet can help no one, because the Internet is larger than any one government, and those which fight against it fight a losing battle. The migration of Korean users to non-Korean internet sites is just one indicator of this phenomenon. Each government in the world, not only the Korean government, will have to learn to live with the quick and free exchange of information, because it cannot be cut off with legislation.