By Bae Ji-sook
The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office said Wednesday that it will launch investigations to crack down on those who spread groundless rumors on the Internet involving North Korea’s attack on Yeonpyeong Island in the western sea border.
Those who are deemed responsible for the circulation of “conspiracy theories” that are sympathetic to the North will face charges of violating the National Security Law, it said.
The prosecution’s stern warning came as rumors began flying about the cause of North Korea’s artillery attack on the populated island Tuesday. The prosecution, police and security-related ministries will cooperate to root out rumors that could undermine national security.
The National Police Agency apprehended two males who allegedly sent mobile phone text messages that all reserve soldiers were ordered to be conscripted.
Twenty-eight-year-old Kim on Tuesday afternoon sent messages under the name of Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, which read: “Emergency order: The highest wartime alert has been posted. All civil reserve soldiers should report to respective posts,” according to the police.
Twenty-five-year-old Yun also sent messages to his friends under the name of the Ministry of National Defense.
Both claimed their deeds were mere pranks, but it was revealed that the two organizations received anxious phone calls due to the fake conscription messages.
A 13-year-old middle school student in Gwangju was caught by the police on Tuesday for sending text messages that read, “War has broken out. There are battles in Seoul. Evacuate to the southern part of the country.”
The police said he was sent home after being lectured on the seriousness of his behavior.
On the Internet, a lot of unconfirmed rumors began circulating.
The initiation was an affiliate of Reuters when it reported a rumor from Singapore that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is dead, stressing that the rumor hit the market hard. The rumor reported from a reliable media outlet swiftly spread online.
The Presidential office stood up to refute the report. “It is just a bunch of gossip circulated by the foreign press. It isn’t even worth reporting to the President,” Hong Sang-pyo, a Presidential secretary, said.
Some other speculations regarding the North Korean heir Kim Jong-un, the current leader Kim Jong-il as well as the South Korea government’s stance, were rampant, disseminated through social network service tools and others.
Those who spread groundless gossip thereby threatening public interest could be subject to up to a five-year imprisonment or up to a 50 million won fine. Those who spread rumors about the closing of schools will also be subject to prosecution.