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On my way home from Mongolia, I stopped in Seoul, South Korea for 36
hours.  They have a major parliamentary election on April 15.

South Korea is the always-on broadband capital of the world. In
short, apartment buildings act like purchasing cooperatives because
they own their own telecom equipment. They bring homes (most people
live in apartments) big bandwidth at some of the lowest prices in the

Always-on, inexpensive consumer Internet (almost essential for a
"Citizens Internet") combined with a competitive election season make
this an important place for a virtual tour.

So here we go ...

1. In late 2002 Roh Moo-hyun was elected president as a candidate of
the Millennium Democratic Party. More:
http://www.mail-archive.com/[EMAIL PROTECTED]/msg00588.html

2. One of the key actors that spurred online campaign developments
was the National Election Commission <http://home.nec.go.kr>.   They
even worked with major Internet portals for start political debate
forums online.  Read this great article from the source:

** http://babelfish.altavista.com - Translates Korean text into
English - However, not text in images/flash which seem to make up 50%
of Korean sites.

3. Roh has had a bumpy time as President
<http://www.president.go.kr>. The Millennium Democratic Party
<http://www.minjoo.or.kr> pulled their support and a faction of Roh
supporters formed the Uri Party <http://www.eparty.or.kr>. The other
(and larger) old guard party is the Grand National Party
<http://www.hannara.or.kr>.  With various campaign donation scandals
swirling around the supposedly clean Roh, he said something to effect
that if his illegal contributions were 10 percent of the old guard
parties, he'd resign.  When Roh decided to send troops to Iraq, a
major citizen-based news site <http://www.ohmynews.com> that helped
get him elected also pulled their support.

4. Korea has very strict election laws
<http://www.korea.net/government/independent/political.html>.  Very
strict.  As I understand it, the President, like every civil servant,
is supposed to stay neutral in parliamentary elections.  He expressed
support for the Uri Party and last month was impeached! by the
opposition dominated parliament for violating the election laws. The
conviction phase goes to a constitutional court which is trying to
get Roh to show up.

5. The GNP and MDP went too far and the small Uri Party rocketed to
over 50 percent in the polls
<http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=9313> (which are
now illegal to release during the official two week campaign period).
 Roh's, for the first time in a long time, is receiving some decent
sympathy and lots of supportive e-mail

6. Recently, the GNP and MDP dumped older leaders for younger women
in their early 50s.  Then last week, the male leader of Uri attempted
to encourage younger voter turn-out by suggesting that people in
their 20s and 30s would lead the future of Korea - and "those in
their 60s and 70s don't have to vote. They have played their parts,
and are about to retire from the stage, so they can rest at home."

Fire storm online and offline. He resigned as a candidate and party
leader yesterday. Some more analysis:

7. My visit to the National Election Commission ...  First off, it
was a great visit.  They have produced the world's most advanced and
comprehensive election information web sites - from government or
anyone else for that matter. Remember: http://babelfish.altavista.com

Youth-oriented mega site:

Mobile technology:
- A flash web-ad with James Bond music encouraging people to send in
pictures of any election violations they catch with their mobile
phone camera.  The web ad shows two crooked politicians getting
caught exchanging money by someone with a phone camera.
- I also know that people can download pro-voting rings for their
mobile phones.

Their government produced election guide - on steroids:

Their "epol" site is takes the MyBallot concept forward, it allows
people to select their district via a flash animated map. Then based
on each race they can see the candidates on their ballot and discuss
the election with other voters in that district. Along with a link to
the candidate's own site and contact information, for each candidate
they allow voters to in one click get the candidate's:

A. Crime record
B. Tax record
C. Wealth declaration
D. Election law violations record
E. Campaign finance information (not reported until after an
F. Issue positions submitted by the candidate
G. Discuss the candidate

I was given an in-person virtual tour ... if I got any of these
details wrong, I'll post a correction to DoWire

8. False Statements - This is the first election cycle where an
attempt to fully enforce the 1993? election law on the Internet.  A
few things:

A. No one may campaign for election outside the two week election
period. So based on the law you cannot say, vote for X party on a web
site outside that window.  You can express opinions, just not
campaign ... some grey area here.  The one exemption is for political
party and candidate web sites - they can campaign all of the time.

B. False statements about candidates in any medium are illegal.

C. Korea recently had a commission develop some regulations to guide
the law's implementation online.

An article:

KOREA: Political parodies: free expression or law violations?
The Korea Herald - Tuesday, April 6, 2004

"But in less than a month, he found himself being interrogated by
police on charges of illegal campaigning against the main opposition
GNP ahead of this month's general elections.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency indicted him with illegal
campaigning for making and distributing his political parodies to
many Internet users with the alleged intention to disrupt a
particular party's election campaign.

According to the Elections Law, people are banned from making false
accusations about politicians or from releasing documents that could
affect poll results."

Another article:
KOREA: Controversy erupts over online political parodies
The arrest of a university student Tuesday for circulating images on
the Internet parodying opposition parties and their leaders has
sparked a backlash from netizens who believe the police are limiting
their freedom of expression
The Korea Times- Wednesday, March 24, 2004

This site urges support for one of the satirists:


A. The NEC is monitoring a few thousand web sites for false
statements.  Whether on the home page or buried in a web forum, if
they asking the site owners to remove remarks that violate the laws.

B. What is viewed by the NEC as an opinion and not a false statement
does prevent the police from interpreting the law differently.  So in
my read, different interests are using the police to get people
arrested for things that probably aren't convictable law violations.

C. There are satirical images all over the Korean Internet.  One of
the images that helped get someone arrested was tame compared to
these images on the GNP site suggesting Roh was a drunk (and much
(help me find the link, look for the green sweet potato wine bottle)

D. Real Names - To better enforce the prohibition against false
statements, the NEC adopted a Real Names policy for web forums.  It
was to have gone into effect on April 12, but I've just noticed that
the NEC has opted for warnings and not fines this election:

This is an example of where Internet culture around anonymous or
alias-based individual speech is running into laws attempting to
prevent wide spread public awareness of false statements. I was asked
by their election director what I thought of this proposal and I
noted that the cost to enforce might be greater than the benefit
intended.  Although, I did note that E-Democracy.Org the non-profit
(not a government) voluntarily restricts anonymous speech to increase
the influence of our forums and encourage civility. However, if my
government restricted anonymous speech online in general, I'd be
opposed.  One solution in general might be to encourage and promote
more places where people are not "anonymous cowards" as Slashdot
calls them.  On the other hand, in places where signing your name
might get you put in jail, such anonymous heros need to be protected.

9. So with less than two days to go, check out web sites above and a
number of stories on the Internet and Korean politics:

KOREA: Internet revolutionizes campaign
Technology facilitates young people's participation in politics
The Korea Herald - Friday, April 2, 2004

Country Seeing Revolution in Campaigning

KOREA: Internet broadcaster ordered to correct election report
The Korea Times - Sunday, April 4, 2004

KOREA: Chung takes a beating on Internet
Uri Party candidate, Chung Dong-young, is berated on internet forums
for his agist comments
The Korea Times - Tuesday, April 6, 2004

KOREA: Election law violations abound on Internet
As campaigning for the upcoming general elections leaps into the
digital realm, it steps away from legality
The Korea Herald - Saturday, April 10, 2004

Election Law Violators Made Public on Web
"As of on Sunday afternoon, the National Election Commission (NEC)
posted the list of 26 violators and the election laws they violated
on the portal website epol.nec.go.kr."

Voters cool to online campaigns  (specific candidate sites that is)

Internet Users Take Impeachment Debate to New Lows
On the Internet homepages of Cheong Wa Dae, each political party,
civil groups, the Constitutional Court and other institutions, a
massive battle of vituperation is raging between pro-impeachment and
anti-impeachment Internet users. Quite different from the peaceful,
non-violent demonstrations that have been taking place in real life,
pro-Roh and anti-Roh camps are letting fly with torrents of
irrational abuse in cyberspace.

Internet Users Circulate Lists of Pro-Impeachment Lawmakers

Also, some English News Sites about Korea:
http://www.newsonkorea.com/html/newsdesk/morenews/Politics_News/ -
http://english.kbs.co.kr/ - TV

More sites I'd like someone to help me "tour":

Other sightings? Drop me an e-mail: [EMAIL PROTECTED]

Steven Clift
Democracies Online Newswire
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