War against 'Fake News' or destroying freedom of speech? South Korea's move being judged by critics

After South Korean PM Lee Nak-yon's visit to Vietnam, based on a picture he was named as 'commie' by conservative critics.

Winter Olympics 2018
South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon (R) talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister and special envoy Kim Yo-jong (L) and Kim Yong-nam, president of the North's Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, prior to a luncheon meeting at a Seoul hotel on Feb. 11, 2018. IANS

The East-Asian country, South Korea has decided to combat 'Fake News' and on Tuesday the officials stated that it is a 'destroyer of democracy.' But, conservative critics see the attempt as a trap to paralyze freedom of speech.

South Korean Prime minister Lee Nak-yon said at a cabinet meeting that the surge of fake news in the country, not only interfering into citizens' privacy but also violating country's national security and foreign policies, as well as affecting its relations with North Korea.

PM Lee became furious last week after his visit to Vietnam, where he attended the state funeral for the president Tran Dai Quang, who died on September 21. He went to visit the stilt house of Ho Chi Minh and wrote in the visitor's book, which was in the compound that he felt 'humble' before the great Vietnamese leader.

It should be noted that during the Vietnam War, South Korean troops also fought against the Vietnamese shoulders and supported US in the battlefield.

However, after the photograph, which captured PM Lee's tribute, was published in South Korea, conservative critics called him a 'commie' (a communist) on social media, while some people falsely claimed that PM Lee made tribute to Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea and the grandfather of leader Kim Jong-un.

PM Lee later called these misleading information 'vicious' and as per New York Times, he said on Tuesday, October 2 that the fake news "is a public enemy hiding behind the cover of free speech. We can no longer turn a blind eye to it."

He ordered the police and prosecutors to start an investigation on those people, who generated such fake news deliberately and systematically shared it. PM Lee also told the Korea Communications Commission, which is a government regulatory agency, to take a look into those media sources that are used for spreading such fake news.

As the country's move to combat fake news, PM Lee asked government agencies to report false stories to the law enforcement authorities for the investigation purpose and called for a new law that will help to regulate misinformation. On the other hand, the opposition lawmakers claimed that these decisions are taken to silence the criticism. Even the conservative critics used YouTube videos to attack the administration of President Moon Jae-in, whom they often address as North Korean puppet.

In addition, a legislator affiliated with the conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party, Park Dae-chul, stated, "They can already punish distribution of false information under the existing laws. I cannot help suspecting that this is an attempt to crack down on right-wing podcasts. They want to shut down the voices the government doesn't want to hear."

The surge of Fake News is not new for this world, as almost every nation is now trying to control such false content, which is affecting the government as well as the personal life of people.

Last month, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Government of Singapore both stated that a fraudulent website has been soliciting investments in Bitcoins by using fabricated comments from Deputy Prime Minister and MAS Chairman, Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Later, Singapore decided to call a new Select Committee for implementing new laws, which grant the government powers to deal with the issues related to online falsehoods.

This article was first published on October 3, 2018
Related topics : Fake news