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Ruling party to push for alternative legislation after court declares telecom law unconstitutional

All Headlines 14:51 December 29, 2010

By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, Dec. 29 (Yonhap) -- The ruling Grand National Party (GNP) said Wednesday it will seek alternative legislation to punish those who spread false information online after the current law was declared unconstitutional.

The Constitutional Court on Tuesday ruled that an article of the Telecommunications Law criminalizing those who distribute misleading content online is unconstitutional because of its obscurity and excessive punishment.

"We respect the decision by the Constitutional Court," GNP Chairman Ahn Sang-soo was quoted as saying at a party meeting. "It would be better if the party's policy committee comes up with alternative legislation that can prevent indiscriminate dissemination of groundless rumors on the Internet," he said.

Currently, those who spread "false" information with the intention of "harming the public interest" on the Web or by cell phone face up to five years in prison and 50 million won (US$43,500) in fines. However, the court said the terms "false" and "public interest" are ambiguous and punishment of offenders is excessively harsh.

"We should come up with measures that do not violate freedom of expression but protect others' rights and public order," Suh Byung-soo, a member of the GNP's Supreme Council, said during the meeting.

The law heated up a debate between freedom of expression and public harm when an Internet blogger, better known by his online alias "Minerva," was indicted early last year on charges of spreading misleading information through his posts on a portal bulletin board.

His harsh criticism of the government's economic policies spread quickly through the Internet, and the government claimed that his posts of an untrue rumor cost the country US$2 billion it had to urgently inject into the economy to stabilize the currency market.

Minerva was later acquitted, but he filed a petition with the court asking if the law was constitutional.

The law had been applied broadly so far, punishing those on cases ranging from North Korea's provocations to celebrity news.

sshim@yna.co.kr
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