Instrument of terror
'Cyberviolence' Plagues South Korea
By YU-SUP LEE
Associated Press Writer
SEOUL, South Korea
Kim Hyo-bi doesn't want her picture taken any more. Not after the 22- year-old student's portrait wound up on a photo-sharing Web site last summer with her face colored and distorted to make her look silly, titled alongside the original as "Before and After."
She tried to simply forget about it, but she couldn't. She was barraged with calls from friends who saw the page, and the humiliation and feeling of being violated caused her several sleepless nights.
"I always thought that it is something (that) only could happen to other people," Kim said.
South Korea is the world's most wired country, boasting the highest per capita rate of broadband Internet connections. But there is a growing sense that high-tech prowess hasn't been matched by the development of a mature online society, creating a growing problem of what is known here as "cyberviolence."
Now, law enforcement and the government are taking action. Trying to prevent anonymous attacks, the government said in December it would require Web sites to confirm users' real names before they can post.
Many South Korean Web sites already require users to enter their national identification numbers to get accounts, which are verified through a government system.
The government says a bill on the real-name authentication will be submitted to the National Assembly in the first half of this year.
To Kim Bi-hwan, a political science professor at Sungkyunkwan University, cyberviolence won't be solved by official intervention. He said the maturity of country's Internet society hasn't kept pace with technological innovation.
Some Web sites are taking matters into their own hands, seeking to actively filter comments. South Korea's Cyworld site, home to a hugely popular blog hosting service with 17 million registered members, has 115 employees who encourage proper Internet etiquette and another 20 monitoring for malicious remarks and slander.
Victims of cyberviolence can suffer from insomnia along with anger and feelings of insecurity, said psychiatrist Kim Jin-se, who has treated patients with the issue. Soothing them isn't easy, Kim said, because the problem causing their troubles, the Internet, has become an indispensable part of daily life.
He suggested those who are targeted try to ignore the abuse or simply stay offline for a while.
Kim, the student whose picture was altered, said she felt she couldn't go to police with her complaints because she feared it might actually have been posted by a friend. She said she never put the photo on the Web and doesn't know how it got there.
She now warns friends not to use her photo on the Web and remains keenly aware of any cameras around her. In South Korea, of course, cameras are essentially everywhere, since most mobile phones have them.
On a recent shopping trip, Kim was startled by the sound of camera shutters and the sight of flashes.
"Unfortunately," she said, "it still irritates me."
posted by Steve @ 4:47:00 PM