We told you last week how it was a war crime to use a smart phone in North Korea. It’s also apparently a crime to retweet the North Korean twitter account in South Korea.
Amnesty USA is reporting that Park Jeonggeun, a 24-year-old Socialist Party activist, was arrested for retweeting “long live Kim Jong-il” from North Korea’s official Twitter account. He is charged with helping “the enemy.”
Park, who claims that the re-tweet was meant to ridicule North Korea, has been in custody since January 11. He faces up to seven years in prison.
Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director Sam Zarifi says that this is “a sad case of the South Korean authorities complete failure to understand sarcasm.”
“Imprisoning anyone for peaceful expression of their opinions violates international law but in this case, the charges against Park Jeonggeun are simply ludicrous and should be dropped immediately,” Zarifi said.
What’s even weirder is that the South Korean Socialist Party doesn’t even like or support North Korea. They frequently criticize the communist state for exploiting its labor force, outlawing trade unions and forcing people to work under harsh conditions.
“Park is a member of a party which openly criticizes North Korea but the absurd case against him is not an isolated one. For too long South Korean authorities have been using the National Security Law (NSL) to restrict basic freedoms and gag civil society in the name of national security,” Zarifi added.
Park told Amnesty International that his intention was “to lampoon North Korea’s leaders for a joke. I did it for fun.”
Park has a history of poking fun at North Korea. He changes their propaganda posters on Twitter to replace a smiling soldier’s face with his own sad face and change the gun to a bottle of whiskey.
He disagrees with North Korean communism, but he demands he be allowed to know and learn about their culture.
“The NSL has a chilling effect on freedom of expression in South Korea. It is used not to address threats to national security, but instead to intimidate people and limit their rights to free speech. It should be reformed in line with human rights law, and if the government cannot do this, it must be abolished,” Zarifi said.
Zarifi claims that South Korea continues to use the NSL to silence opponents of the country’s view towards North Korea. Numerous arrests have allegedly been made against people for “propagating or instigating a rebellion against the state.”
There are other investigations under way in the country against those who have posted materials related to North Korea, where the police have deemed the materials to be “enemy benefitting.”