Korea to overhaul controversial online identification law
Korea will revamp its controversial online identification law next year, officials said Thursday, following a spate of cyber hacking cases and criticism that the regulation hampers growth of domestic Internet firms.
The Korea Communications Commission (KCC), the country's telecommunications regulator, said it will overhaul the current telecom law that mandates Internet companies verify users' name and identification number before posting a comment or a message online.
In addition, the commission will introduce a ban on collecting users' resident registration numbers, a common way of verifying Internet users' identity in South Korea.
"We will phase out the practice of collecting resident registration numbers online in order to ease concerns about private data leakages," the commission said in a statement.
"We will review the online identity verification system, since it has become necessary to improve regulations with the changing communication environment."
Introduced in 2007, the real-name verification system was aimed at stamping out anonymous defamation and online libel in South Korea's dynamic Internet community. The law was imposed on Websites with more than 100,000 daily visitors.
This year, there were 146 Websites in South Korea, including Naver and Daum portals, that were required to adopt the system.
But a number of companies that collected and stored users' identification data came under cyber attacks this year, compromising private information of millions of Koreans and touching off criticism on the system.
Proponents of the online identification law blamed anonymous commentators for causing a flurry of celebrity suicides with malicious comments and cyber bullying.
Opponents, however, argued that the law could stifle freedom of expression on the Internet and silence the voices of government critics.
Debates erupted in 2010 when the commission exempted YouTube from the law, citing that the world's most-visited online video site cannot be regulated by domestic regulations.
The decision set off criticism that the system discriminates against local companies and hamstrings their efforts to launch Internet services for overseas users.
Growing popularity of global social networking services, such as Twitter and Facebook, also exposed the law's loopholes as they did not ask Korean users to verify their identity before writing comments.
South Korea enjoys one of the highest rates of connectivity and the fastest Internet connections in the world. Two out of every five people own a smartphone and more than nine in every 10 households have access to high-speed Internet broadband. (Yonhap)