S. Korea Obscenity Conviction Is Tossed

Rhett Pardon

SEOUL — A law professor here was acquitted Thursday on charges that he posted a series of photographs showing male genitals on his blog.

Kyungsin Park, a professor of Korea University, was charged in February with violating the country’s online obscenity law.

Park, at the time of the indictment, was a commissioner of the South Korea Communications Standards Commission, a government agency with an authority to delete Internet content it considered harmful.

He had taken it upon his own to post the photos on his own blog after the commission deleted an Internet users' photos without giving its original owner a chance to defend himself.

Park posted the photos on his own blog, called “Censor’s Diary,” and invited a debate of the commission’s decision.

On Thursday, an appeals court reversed a lower court's ruling finding him guilty for violating South Korea's obscenity law. In the lower court ruling, he was fined $2,700.

The appeals court said Park’s posting could not be ruled indecent because the photos should be viewed in the context of his attempt to criticize the government’s regulations on online content.

Park was one of the few members of South Korea's regulatory board appointed by opposition parties and was an ardent critic of its recent policies.

South Korean communications regulators have more than tripled the number of posts removed or blocked, to more than 53,000 last year from 15,000 in 2008, for such violations as posting pornography, using profanity or supporting North Korea.

Government critics said the heightened Internet surveillance began early in President Lee Myung-bak's term after his government accused political enemies of using the web to organize mass demonstrations in 2008 against a decision to import American beef.