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South Korea 12 January 2009

Blogger arrested for allegedly destabilising currency markets

Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of Park Dae-sung, a widely-read blogger better known by the pseudonym of “Minerva,” who was arrested on 7 January on the grounds that his blog posts “affected foreign exchange markets and the nation’s credibility.” Park faces a possible five-year prison sentence and fine of 27,000 euros (50 million won).

“The authorities seem to want to blame Park for the speculation prompted by his blog entries when all he did was exercise his right to express his personal views,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Park is being tried for rumours which he did not create. His arrest is a serious violation of free expression and bodes ill for the Internet’s future in South Korea.”

Park pleaded not guilty when brought before a Seoul court on 10 January. Among the blog entries that upset the government was one on 29 December in which he said seven of South Korea’s most important finance institutions and export companies had been ordered not to by US dollars in order to stabilise the won (http://bbs1.agora.media.daum.net/gaia/do/debate/read?bbsId=D115&articleId=468442).

A finance ministry official said at the hearing that Park was fully aware that his Internet posts could push up the rate of the dollar and that South Korea would then have to spend much more to stabilise the market. He intended to harm the public interest, the official added. Judicial officials have said that his blog posts from July to December led to 2 billion dollars in losses in currency reserves for South Korea.

Many of Park’s widely-read articles were posted on the forum of Daum.net, one of South Korea’s most popular web portals. In one of his posts, he forecast the collapse of the US bank Lehman Brothers a week before it happened. He also predicted the current worldwide financial crisis. His real identity was unknown until his arrest.

Park claimed in one of his articles that he had an economy decree, had worked on Wall Street and had helped to devise the subprime financial products that are blamed for the current crisis (http://bbs1.agora.media.daum.net/gaia/do/debate/read?bbsId=D115&articleId=478568). The authorities are trying to establish whether he personally profited from South Korea’s financial crisis.




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