In 2003, South Korea's conservative Grand National Party (GNP) struck back from losing a presidential race by enacting a new
law which required online users to verify their real identities before posting comments on election-related web sites. The legislation's stated goals were to to promote responsible online discourse and to protect the privacy of candidates, and it has
accomplished its purpose to a limited extent. Yet the greater underlying political motive is clear to see --- the conservative party that relies on older, less internet-savvy Koreans wanted to limit the influence of online media on election results.
In 2007, an election year, the proliferation of anonymous online slander was the stated cause for extending the real-name system to web sites with over 300,000 daily visits.
In 2009, the real-name system was extended to web sites that received over 100,000 web sites per day. As of last year, this law applied to about 150 South Korean web sites.
The government's efforts to control cyberspace have been formidable, but as a result of the real-name policy, South Korean web sites have become prime targets for hacking both from in and outside of the country. The number of hacking incidents reached
a momentous level last year, as a series of high-profile cyber-attacks made it clear that the real-name system was untenable --- the most notorious case being SK Communications' SNS Cyworld, which leaked personal information of over 35 million Koreans,
more than half of the national population.
The South Korean government also suffered an embarrassment when Google's YouTube refused to comply to the real-name verification system in 2009. Stating that freedom of expression must be upheld on the internet, Google disabled video upload and
comment functionalities from users accessing the site within S. Korea. Yet users only had to change their country setting in order to upload and comment on the site again, providing a legal loophole which set-off a wide debate within the country. The
incident prompted the KCC to initiate a legal review, and after mulling over whether to punish Google or not, decided to exempt it from the real-name law, which added oil to the fire. Korean companies that have had to comply to the law --- that had
incurred web development, monitoring, and security costs --- cited discrimination that put them at a competitive disadvantage to global companies.
On December 30, 2011, the KCC announced that it will phase out the real-name verification system by 2014. This time, web sites that do not remove resident registration IDs and other sensitive information will be fined.
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