How to Get Censored in South Korea

Free speech activists and international observers are concerned with South Korea's crackdown on social media. Below are examples of tweets and other cases that have caused trouble. Compiled by CHOE SANG-HUN and SHREEYA SINHA.


  1. A government critic who called President Lee Myung-bak a curse word on his Twitter account found the account blocked. The Twitter handle, @2MB18nomA, translates to “Lee Myung-bak bastard.” The "2" is pronounced "lee" in Korean and "MB" is short for Myung-bak. (Hence, Lee Myung-bak.) The 2MB also means two megabytes, (the brain power of the president, critics say,) and "noma" is bastard in Korean. The Twitter identification says "I am 99%" 
  2. An activist whose Twitter posting likened officials to pirates for approving a controversial naval base was accused by the South Korean navy of criminal defamation. The Twitter identification translates to “the voice of 99 percent” in Korean. (Source: Inews24)
  3. A judge who wrote that the president (“His Highness”) was out to “screw” Internet users who challenged his authority was fired in what was widely seen as punishment.
  4. This man, Park Jung-geun, was indicted on charges of breaking South Korea’s national security law after reposting North Korean propaganda through his satirical Twitter account. (Source: Money Today)
  5. In the parodied North Korean propaganda poster, below, Mr. Park inserted his face and a whiskey bottle.
  6. The police once wanted this Twitter account blocked or removed for writing that “even a dog would laugh” at the government’s investigative report that blamed North Korea for the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010. That defamed government investigators, the police said.
  7. The owner of the Twitter account also spread this satirical poster through Twitter. The account is still accessible but seems to be dormant.
  8. This opposition lawmaker came under attack from the governing party and many others after calling Park Geun-hye, the governing party’s presidential hopeful, “that bitch” in a Twitter posting below. He later apologized on Twitter, calling it a “typo.” (Source: Dong-A)

  9. The Web celebrity Chung Bong-ju was sentenced to a year in prison in December 2011 for spreading false rumors connecting the president to allegations of stock fraud. His conviction came amid rising concerns about freedom of speech in South Korea, where defamation is a criminal offense and the onus of proof often lies not with those claiming to have been defamed, but on the defendants.
  10. In 2010, North Korea ventured into the social media world by opening Twitter, YouTube and Facebook accounts. South Korea blocked the accounts, whose names translate to “our nation,” calling their messages “illegal content.” South Korea has since blocked or removed hundreds of Web sites and social media accounts for carrying pro-North Korean content.
  11. In 2007, the government arrested Kim Myung-soo on charges of "aiding the enemy" for running a Web site that sold used books deemed pro-North Korean. The police locked him in a jail cell so small he could spread his arms and touch the facing walls. In 2011, he was acquitted in court. 
  12. Facts: In 2010, 151 people were interrogated on suspicion of violating the National Security Law, up from 39 in 2007. The number of people prosecuted for pro-North Korean online activities increased to 82 in 2010 from 5 in 2008. During the first 10 months of 2011, the police deleted 67,300 Web posts they believed threatened national security by “praising North Korea and denouncing the U.S. and the government,” a sharp rise from 14,430 posts in 2009.