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The most wired country in the world has always been on the forefront of internet trends. Now, they're on the cusp of cyber-violence.
“The laws for these types of actions on the web in this country are actually all in place,” said Choung Wan, a professor at Kyunghee University’s Law School. Choung believes Korea is four or five years ahead of other countries in terms of experiencing unhealthy practices on the web, but he also thinks a lot more can be done.
“It’s true that the victims lack education on legal means they can take,” Choung said. South Korea currently has a heavier sentence on cyber defamation than regular defamation crimes and those found guilty of cyber stalking can face up to a year in prison or a fine of roughly $10,000.
The number of violent, cyber-related crimes has almost tripled over the past five years to 13,819 cases in 2008, according to the country’s Cyber Terror Response Center.
Over the years, South Korea has seen a jump in cyber-related deaths with a number of celebrity suicides caused by malicious postings on the web making headlines. However, there has yet to be a high-profile case in which a victim of cyberbullying has taken his or her attacker to the courts.
Unlike Korea, in the U.S., a case involving a 50-year-old woman and a teenager who took her own life went to federal courts as the country’s first cyber-bullying case. The case gained nationwide attention and prompted states that lacked appropriate laws to draft legislation that directly addressed cyberbullying.
Countries in Europe are also waking up to the dangers of cyber-bullying and launching public campaigns to raise awareness.
The nature of cyber witch hunting in Korea slightly differs from Western cyber-bullying. In Korea it is a pack mentality that drives web sabotage, rather than acquaintances of the victim taking action, but the scale of the cyber assaults — blogs, chatrooms, popular web forums — is what heightens the pressure.
“A lot of times [in Korea] people can’t say things upfront, but they easily ride along with others if they’re anonymous,” Choung said.
Added to the problem is the fact that often the victims are in a culture that is more reluctant to take legal steps to solve their problems.
“People do tend to just put up with what they’re going through,” Choung said.