Blogger Park Dae-sung
By Park Si-soo
Online commentator Park Dae-sung, better known as ``Minerva,'' was found not guilty of spreading false financial information with intent to hurt the public interest, Monday.
The Seoul Central District Court set free the 31-year-old, about 100 days following his arrest on charges of violating the Telecommunications Law. ``Park wrote the articles without the knowledge that his postings contained false information. Even if he was aware of it, he didn't intend to harm the public interest,'' the court said in its ruling.
Lawyer Park Chan-jong, who is representing Park, told The Korea Times, ``This ruling means the judiciary supports freedom of expression on the Internet, and that cannot be interrupted by any means.'' The prosecution appealed the verdict.
Walking out of Seoul Detention Center in Gyeonggi Province at around 5 p.m., Park told reporters, ``I'm fine. I will never return (to prison).''
``I'm sorry for causing any trouble to society and wish this case to contribute to improving the nation's democracy as well as human rights,'' he said. ``I will continue to write articles on various topics.''
Minerva made his name online after predicting the fall of Lehman Brothers and the plunge of the won against the U.S. dollar, both of which took place between late last year and early 2009.
Park was arrested and indicted in January on charges of spreading false financial rumors through articles he posted on July 30 and Dec. 29 last year on a bulleting board of Daum, the country's second largest portal.
Park claimed in the first posting that, ``The financial authorities will suspend the trading of foreign currencies from Aug. 1 due to the depletion of reserves.'' In the second posting, he said, ``The finance ministry issued an emergency statement banning major banks here from buying U.S. dollars to help stop the Korean currency's further fall against the greenback.''
The ministry officially denied both allegations and criticized him for destabilizing the currency market. The prosecution claimed the December posting led to dollar hoarding, forcing the government to hurriedly inject $2 billion to stabilize the market.
The detention and indictment of Park, who has been touted as an ``oracle'' in cyberspace among liberal citizens and civic groups, drew keen attention from local and international media since it was the first time here that a blogger was taken into custody on charges of posting articles critical of the Lee Myung-bak administration's financial policies.
It also triggered a fierce debate over freedom of expression.
Conservative pro-government people, calling him a ``doomsayer,'' blamed him for undermining President Lee's leadership, claiming the government needed to take measures to bring more accountability to Internet postings.
However, Park's supporters insist he was merely a blogger expressing his opinions, and that the charges against him jeopardized the integrity of the nation's Internet culture.