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  • The South Korea Communications Commission has proposed a new law that will give the government full control over internet traffic.
  • Foreign internet companies will be obliged to operate a locally-based server with Korean user data.
  • People fear that this will further internet control and censorship, while KCC plays down the concerns.

The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) has laid out its key plans for 2019, focused around the promotion of user rights and the creation of a fair competition ecosystem. While this sounds good, advocates of freedom of speech and unrestricted internet access fear that the new law proposals will actually undermine the value and online experience. According to them, the new legislation has the potential to empower the country’s government to selectively shut down the domestic operation of online entities that don’t comply with their strict requirements.

Until now, companies that are engaged as online service providers experience a type of a double standard in South Korea. Locally-based companies must comply with the Korean regulations, while foreign entities don’t have to. This creates an unfair competition environment, and so native companies have repeatedly expressed their complaints to the government. Among the various amendments that are proposed, there is the following clause that concerns foreign internet companies:

  • With the Internet removing barriers between nations and competition with global operators intensifying, strive to alleviate the rising issue of reverse discrimination against domestic operators versus global ones. First, determine grounds for regulating unfair activity regarding Internet companies’ use of the network and draw up “Guidelines on Contracts for Fair Network Use” in order to prevent unfair discrimination between domestic and global operators regarding network use. Along with this, overseas operators are required to designate a domestic representative responsible for personal data. Furthermore, pursue strengthening regulatory execution over global operators, including measures to temporarily suspend services if an Internet operator does not redress activities which violate regulations.

What this means is the foreign entities such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google will have to operate South Korean user data storage servers locally, with the help and cooperation of a specified native partner. If they fail to do so, or if they repeatedly violate the clause, the Korean government will have the power to penalize them, or even impose a shutdown.

While this may not sound evil, people are concerned that the goal of the government is to actually gain more control over the internet traffic in the country, dip its nose deeper into the users’ internet browsing activities, and generally violate their people’s online privacy. While the chairman of KCC denied these allegations and claimed that they simply want to create a fair and safe online environment, the recent story about the government’s plans to monitor SNI handshakes doesn’t help in convincing the suspicious.

Do you believe that South Korea is on its way to a stricter internet, or is this going to work to their benefit? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, and don’t forget to also check our socials on Facebook and Twitter, where more tech news are posted continuously.