As The Marmot’s Hole reports, reports that the formerly-anonymous online writer/blogger known as Minerva has been arrested. The Korea Times unironically reports he was arrested for “spreading false rumors” which is the opposite of the truth according to The Economist:
Written by someone called “Minerva”, it predicted the imminent collapse of Lehman Brothers, a now-defunct investment bank.
Wild speculation is normally disregarded, but when it proved to be right just five days later, a prophet was born. Word raced through the “netizen” community, and when Minerva went on to predict that the Korean won would fall against the dollar by around 50 won a day in the first half of the week of October 6th, his followers began to watch the currency markets in anticipation. The won did indeed fall by about that much over the next three days.
Here’s my translation of the initial report linked to by the Marmot.
The internet economist “Minerva” (미네르바), known among netizens as the “faceless economic president” (얼굴 없는 경제대통령), has been subjected to emergency arrest.
On the 8th the drug crimes division of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency announced that on the 7th it had made an emergency arrest of 30-year old Mr. Park, who was active on the “Daum Agora” internet forums under the pen name “Minerva”.
After investigating the context and goals of Mr. Park’s writings, prosecutors ordered him arrested for spreading malicious rumors, a violation of the law on information communications (정보통신망이용촉진 및 정보보호에 관한 법률).
The prosecution’s investigation discovered that, contrary to what Mr. Park had written, he does not work in finance, has never traveled overseas, and works so little he is almost unemployed.
A prosecution representative said, “Mr. Park taught himself economics after graduating from a technical college. His major was not even related to economics.”
As of the afternoon of the 9th, when the emergency arrest was to expire, the prosecution had yet to make a final decision on whether to charge Mr. Park.
Since last year, while writing as “Minerva”, Mr. Park correctly predicted the subprime mortgage crisis and the freefall of the won’s exchange rates while severely criticizing the government’s economic policies, making him very popular among netizens.
On the 29th of last month, in a post titled “Government’s Emergency Order is Step Backwards”, he pointed out that, “after 2:30 pm today the government distributed an emergency order halting the purchase of dollars by the seven major financial firms.”
Today Minerva deleted all of his posts and wrote “Closed”, and the Ministry of Strategy and Finance (기획재정부) announced, “legal action is being considered in response to Minerva’s groundless writings.”
Note that the entire investigation and arrest appears to have been carried out by the prosectutor’s office and not by the police, which would certainly support the inference that this arrest is entirely political. Frankly this whole business is better left to countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia and can only make President Lee look bad.
It’s also pretty interesting that Mr. Park is self-taught, and apparently quite well, in a country where diplomas are nearly everything.
Quick update: The Chosun Ilbo has photos of the inevitable perp-walk.
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