Having just brought you the live-TV swearing lawyer, prosecutors are once again in the middle of controversy for a foul-mouthed politically motivated case: this time for indicting a webzine publisher for ‘intimidating’ the President by using vulgar language in an article.
In Korea, an intimidation charge requires victims to show their intention to punish threateners, but they have not asked whether the President felt threatened by the article. Even though Koreans have seen enough cases that the investigative authority using their power to serve those in powers, this case is attracting thousands of comments in one of major portal sites, Daum. Whilst most comments show frustration over the Lee Myung-bak administration, some of the popular comments seem to be at polar opposites.
Can calling the President a ‘son of a bitch’ constitute an ‘intimidation charge’?
It is confirmed on the 28th that the Prosecutor’s Office had indicted an individual on an intimidation charge for he wrote an article with vulgarly worded criticism of President Lee Myung-bak. In Korea, when victims do not want threateners to be punished, the intimidation case is not ‘prosecutable’, yet prosecutors have not even asked the President’s intention to prosecute.
The Criminal Department 4 of the Seoul Southern District Public Prosecutor’s Office(Senior Prosecutor: Lee Wan-kyu) had indicted Mr Shin, the publisher of a political webzine, Seoprise, on the 20th of April without detention. In a response to the onset of the Prosecutors’ Office investigation on the 27th of February over an alleged bribery allegation of Roh Moo-hyun’s daughter, he posted an article that criticised President Lee, titled ‘Lee Myung-bak, you son of a bitch ’, under his pen name ‘dokkotak’. The article includes phrases such as ‘If you and your privately owned prosecutors draw the sword to Roh Moo-hyun’s family, then you bastards will taste a living hell’, ‘This warning is your last chance to save yourselves, bastards’.
A conservative activist group, ‘Right Korea’ reported Mr Shin to the Prosecutors’ Office for an intimidation charge. And two months later, prosecutors charged Mr Shin for ‘threatening by suggesting an intention of inflicting some form of harm on the victim’s family, as well as the victim himself’.
However, many criticise the charge is far-fetched, considering the article is written by one of netizens venting about the President. They say that it is hard to acknowledge the validity of intimidation in this case. One of senior managers of the Prosecutors’ Office said ‘This case is like a kid threatening to kill a grown man,’ and added ‘Threatening itself can constitute an intimidation charge though, if victims don’t feel intimidated, then the case becomes an attempted charge where normally threateners do not get punished. If we have prosecuted netizens over this kind of incidents, about 10 thousand people would’ve been charged for threatening the ex-late President Roh.’ Prosecutors have not even checked whether President Lee felt threatened by the article.
It is also controversial whether the charge is valid without asking President Lee’s intention to punish Mr Shin. The Assistant Prosecutor General, Shin Yu-chul commented that ‘An intimation charge is not punishable only if victims make clear to not want punishment of threateners, otherwise it is prosecutable. That’s why we haven’t asked whether the President wants punishment of the threatener.’
However, when the third party reported threateners on behalf of victims such as this case, the third party is obliged to inform the victims to make sure one’s intention to punish the threateners. Kwon Jae-jin, the head of Civil Affairs of the Cheongwadae showed an intention on behalf of the President to punish Kim Jong-ik, when he was interrogated for defaming President Lee by uploading ‘Jwicko’, [it meant to be a parody of Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’] video on the internet. It is unusual for prosecutors not to ask victims’ opinion regarding an intimidation charge.
A lawyer who’s also an ex-prosecutor said that ‘Prosecutors wouldn’t have had to ask the President’s intention if it was a blatant intimidation case such as sending a gun or a death-threat mail. Otherwise, prosecutors should’ve asked him,’ added ‘it’s hard to understand punishing an individual for merely expressing a political opinion.’
There is an opinion among legal communities that Mr Shin’s article is more of defaming President Lee, yet prosecutors have indicted Mr Shin for an intimidation charge because defamation is an offense subject to criminal complaint. The crime of defamation may result in a fine up to two million won or imprisonment of up to one year, whilst the crime of intimidation can lead to a fine up to five million won or imprisonment of up to three years.
Comments from Daum:
Seeing that stupid face made me say my first f-word today.
Prosecutors, we all know you are MB’s dogs without barking.
Is it okay to intimidate citizens?
It would constitute intimidation for Lee Myung-bak to say ‘Bad people go to hell’ or ‘The good overcomes the evil’. Lee Myung-bak! Your existence itself is an intimidation case for all of us!
Isn’t this one of those illegal surveillance incidents? I guess this is the case…
Lee Myung-bak that bastard has dragged this nation down below the surface of normality. This isn’t the first time to prosecute netizens.. Korea became the first nation to put netizens under arrest for ‘tweeting’.. The freedom of speech has been seriously damaged under this administration. Korea has become a joke. Hey Lee Myung-bak! Is it a crime of intimidation if we simply curse you? You dog, bastard! Wait, dogs don’t cheat. You are less than a dog. I’m sorry, doggies!
Divide of Koreans and classes, the birth of Chaebol and materialism in Korea, distorted sexuality, sick obsession for youth, and extreme politics of terror… destructive domestic conflicts… There are a countless number of sins that Park Jung-hee gave birth to.
I’m fucked up. Now I have to delete dangerous comments and articles accumulated. There should be tens of thousands of comments..
Whatever Mr Shin said, I’m pretty sure MB is not a human, considering his past overreactions to netizens’ animal analogies. The dog’s brother, Sang-deuk screwed up POSCO with a 50 billion won case , but there’s no fuss about it.
Bribed prosecutors! Do you really want to kiss the lame duck President’s ass? The tax money spent on your salaries is a total waste.
Is this a crime of intimidation? Then, all of what MB had promised is a scam. We have to charge him for the crime of fraud!
There’s nothing wrong with punishing trolls. Those Juche-following-bastards calling the Commander-in-Chief a son of a bitch must get arrested and executed. They are foreign to constructive debates, yet quick to humiliate the President. Those unprecedentedly corrupted journalists and stupid netizens here, all of them make me sick. We need a law to punish them, ASAP!
That commie journalist must be one of Juche followers. We have to muster up all the legal grounds to make sure those bastards spend the rest of their lives in Aozi mines.[ A North Korean version of Gulags]
Is it a crime to curse a rat?
It is understandable to criticise or show disapproval to the President, yet calling him a ‘son of a bitch ’ is way over-the-top. We should set an example with this incident.
We have been accustomed to cursing the government online, which is what Juche followers and The Korea College Students’ Union have infected us. But I don’t think this is right. What’s the point if the national security is collapsed? Democracy may sound good but if there’s no mother nation to exercise democracy and food to feed her people, what’s the point? Therefore we have to think twice about this incident. It is a serious issue to openly curse the Commander-in-Chief, especially when it’s done by a military officer. Considering a lot of military men have to put their lives on his command, this is more serious than you think.
Whoever uses vulgar words on the internet has to be treated by due process of law. They are bad influences for teenagers as well as mentality and morality of the society. We need to send a message to those who have been using vulgar words toward whomever from the President and politicians to TV personalities. Certain level of criticism and judgment ought to be allowed, yet we also need a law to punish those who cross the line.
It’s a matter of common sense. How do they call themselves Korean whilst cursing the Commander-in-Chief? Which part of the world can match their vulgarity? I think they would have no match. Why? They are commanded by North Korea. It is also wrong to demand the President’s complaint to bring them to justice. Do they use the same rubbish language when they talk to their fathers? It is a common sense not to. We have to get them interrogated. They could be spies.