Korean Blogger Arrested for… Being Right?

January 11th, 2009 · Accidents, Crimes and Scandals, Politics · 22 comments

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.

22 comments

  • This land sure knows how to make a hero out of a hick.

    McVerm · January 11th, 2009 at 2:48 PM

  • Here is some important info missing from the above report, courtesy of the JoongAng Ilbo:

    “Prosecutors confirmed that Park was a member of a social activist group which participated in a drive to press Lee Myung-bak to step down as a presidential candidate in 2007. Prosecutors said they found that Park also registered as a member at “Democracy 2.0,” an online discussion site created by former President Roh Moo-hyun. Prosecutors are investigating whether Park criticized economic policies of the Lee administration for political reasons.”

    This guy Minerva clearly has a political agenda himself, and it’s quite ironic that this so-called martyr of democratic “free speech” was engaged in an attempt to block the democratic voting process here during the last presidential election.

    It is also worth noting that claiming the government did something when it did not is not a “freedom of speech” issue but rather dissemination of false information, which as seen in the case of PD Diary’s falsified mad-cow report is clearly actionable.

    This person Minerva could have probably profited greatly by posting bearish reports on the won and then shorting it himself, but it seems his primary agenda was to attempt to discredit and thereby bring down the LMB government, which was the exact same agenda of the anti-US beef demonstrators. Note that Agora was ground zero for the mad-cow protests, which was also the forum in which Minerva was posting all his economic predictions.

    I believe the progressive elements in Korea will attempt to turn Minerva into a martyr, thereby aiming to launch a second round of candlelight vigils — with the ultimate goal of toppling the LMB/GNP ruling government.

    However, as I have indicated above, we need to distinguish between “freedom of speech” and disseminating potentially libelous false information. It does not seem that the prosecution is taking action on his merely voicing an opinion, but rather on the claims he made on the Dec. 29th, and which the government flatly denies.

    Unless Minerva can produce physical proof of the “emergency order” he referred to in his post, I believe he’s shit out of luck here.

    King Baeksu · January 11th, 2009 at 3:13 PM

  • Update: Minerva, it seems, is indeed shit of out luck:

    “The 30-year-old man, identified only by his surname Park, was accused of spreading false information on an Internet discussion site last month that the government ordered major financial institutions and trade businesses not to purchase U.S. dollars.

    Park was detained Wednesday and has admitted to the allegations, prosecution spokesman Oh Se-in said.”

    Source:

    http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2009/01/09/business/AS-SKorea-Economic-Prophet.php

    King Baeksu · January 11th, 2009 at 3:37 PM

  • Note: Korea Beat, I suggest you reword the title of this post, since it is misleading and plays right into the disinfo campaign that the progressives here are attempting to advance.

    I’m progressive myself, but the facts and the facts, and the truth is the truth, after all.

    King Baeksu · January 11th, 2009 at 3:40 PM

  • Hi,I am no Korean myself, and live on the other side of the world, but interested in everyting that happens on our planet.
    This is indeed a nasty act and not expected from a democratic government.
    I believe that unless proven by hard evidence no one should infer that Mr Park had any gain from this actions.
    Mostly the people who are activists and whistle blowers act for the good of the general public.

    I do not see how an unemloyed guy could:

    “This person Minerva could have probably profited greatly by posting bearish reports on the won and then shorting it himself, but it seems his primary agenda was to attempt to discredit and thereby bring down the LMB government, which was the exact same agenda of the anti-US beef demonstrators.”

    theotherguy · January 11th, 2009 at 5:58 PM

  • “Mostly the people who are activists and whistle blowers act for the good of the general public.”

    Perhaps you should spend a while in Korea first and see if that is really true.

    King Baeksu · January 11th, 2009 at 7:25 PM

  • Agree that if he’s being genuinely prosecuted for spreading lies on the internet then he should suffer the legal consequences. The internet is often used in a particularly nasty fashion after all, and though hard to govern, I believe that the message has to be sent out that you can’t just write any old shit to suit your own agenda.
    On the other hand, using wide ranging legislation to sharrup opponents isn’t exactly cricket…

    Scotty · January 11th, 2009 at 7:53 PM

  • I support freedom of speech, so I don’t see what the problem is or why this guy should be arrested.

    tokyojesusfist · January 12th, 2009 at 12:06 AM

  • “I support freedom of speech, so I don’t see what the problem is or why this guy should be arrested.”

    The Korean progressives have found their new MacGuffin.

    Brilliant.

    King Baeksu · January 12th, 2009 at 12:48 AM

  • KB, maybe it’s because I’m American, but I can’t stomach anybody being arrested for even false speech (as long it is non-libelous). Perhaps his motives weren’t pure, but other governments are able to tolerate plenty worse than Minerva.

    Korea Beat · January 12th, 2009 at 2:57 AM

  • This guy sorta reminds me of Spitzer. What drives these men with exceptional gifts to take such outlandish risks, when the going is so good, is something I could never understand. I would guess it’s precisely because I’m not as gifted as they are.

    JW · January 12th, 2009 at 5:15 AM

  • “This guy sorta reminds me of Spitzer. What drives these men with exceptional gifts to take such outlandish risks, when the going is so good, is something I could never understand. I would guess it’s precisely because I’m not as gifted as they are.”

    Spitzer wanted to have sex with a younger woman, and Minerva wanted fame. Many people want these things, whether they’re gifted or not.

    Anna Bessonova #1 · January 12th, 2009 at 6:45 AM

  • I dunno Anna, I think otherwise. This guy Minerva I’m sure could have sustained his popularity momentum without confronting as he did the government of a country that only recently was a military dictatorship. By my standards of self interested rationality, not so smart. But I’m not as smart as he is, so there is that problem.

    JW · January 12th, 2009 at 7:28 AM

  • I’m with Korea Beat on this one. If the Korean press was doing its job (and weren’t so distrusted by the populace) Minerva’s claims could have been easily disproved. Instead, the Korean government ends up looking heavy-handed for arresting this guy.

    Easy · January 12th, 2009 at 9:48 AM

  • […] The Marmot’s Hole surveys foreign reaction to the Minerva arrest and finds it puzzling that so many find the situation surprising or unique to Korea — though […]

    Korea Beat › Foreign Reaction to Minerva Arrest · January 12th, 2009 at 12:27 PM

  • If he’s so in bed with and important to the left why didn’t they just find him a job in California or Canada where he could blog away to his heart’s content free from any interference?

    Yu Bumsuk · January 12th, 2009 at 5:33 PM

  • Thank you, Your Majesty. Now I know why the guy was arrested. For being a political enemy of Lee Myung Bak. Great. Thank you again for making it so perfectly clear. Still it is funny. Let’s suppose they are going find out that Park indeed criticized economic policies of the Lee for political reasons. And then what? Are they going to jail him for that? Is that a criminal offence in South Korea to criticize for political reasons? If not, why they even bother to investigate that? This really sounds like North Korea to me.

    Z · January 15th, 2009 at 4:30 AM

  • […] Source: Korea Beat […]

    Korean Blogger Arrested For “Malicious Rumors” | On My Way To Korea · January 19th, 2009 at 2:01 PM

  • […] of the sheer implausibility of Mr. Park’s (the Minerva in custody) circumstances, I didn’t really expect this case to become much more than it was; I assumed he would be […]

    Let me let you in on a secret… it is I who is “Minerva,” recession prophet extraordinaire » Ningin » Blog · February 4th, 2009 at 3:42 AM

  • This story is great!! But what can everyone learn from it?? Lets look at the facts and ask some questions.

    I believe it safe to infer that Park has predicted the market, thus proving markets are predictable. Why then would he share this profitable information? Let us ponder! 1. Self interest 2. Political agenda. 3. Other

    1. Self Interest; Plausible, but then why didn’t he use it for economic gain?
    Maybe sell it! ???? Or make a deal with the President!! Seeing the future is power!

    2. Political Agenda; Plausible, but why?? People only have an agenda if their upset!!! Now we’re making progress! Will we ever know??

    I am personally leaning to the political agenda proposition. He gave good information; the bait that gained his following. Then he made a claim about the government.The President was forced into a check mate! And now the world is watching!! Maybe that was the intention?? LOL Maybe the current regime should learn how to keep his ALL of his citizens content.

    3. Other ???? Plausible, Would love to hear what other have to say. Using FACTS of the story to make a hypothesis.

    NOT SURE · February 18th, 2009 at 7:06 AM

  • In terms of self-interest, if you think a stock is going to go up, it’s perfectly rational to buy it and then try to convince everyone else to buy it too, because that pushes the price higher.

    Korea Beat · February 18th, 2009 at 8:08 AM

  • […] The Marmot’s Hole surveys foreign reaction to the Minerva arrest and finds it puzzling that so many find the situation surprising or unique to Korea — though […]

    Foreign Reaction to Minerva Arrest | KoreaBeat · March 10th, 2013 at 10:35 PM

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