Court of appeals confirmed that the blocking of “North Korea Tech” website is unlawful
- The right to disseminate information to Korean people through the Internet is guaranteed as freedom of expression
- A foreigner or an operator of an overseas website blocked in Korea has a standing in a lawsuit against KCSC for its infringement of freedom of expression
On October 18, the Seoul Court of appeals ruled that the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC)’s decision to block access to the “North Korea Tech” website is unlawful, and canceled the decision.
North Korea Tech (northkoreatech.org) is a website run by British reporter Martyn Williams which specializes in North Korea’s ICT issues, and is frequently cited by various worldwide news media. However, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) reported northkoreatech.org to KCSC as an illegal website, and on March 24, 2016, KCSC accordingly decided to block access to the website as it violates the National Security Act only because it contains information on North Korea. Mr. Williams filed a lawsuit against KCSC to cancel the blocking decision, and Open Net Korea and the Korea Internet Transparency Reporting Team provided legal support required.
The Court held that the blocking of a website must be conducted only in an inevitable and exceptional circumstance where the website as a whole can be evaluated as illegal and therefore it was unlawful to entirely block access to northkorea.org which cannot be considered as in violation of the National Security Law. The Court also said that KCSC infringed the principle of “minimum regulation” for blocking the website without sufficient investigation and review.
Furthermore, the ruling stipulated that regardless of nationality, the right to disseminate information to Korean people through the Internet is guaranteed as freedom of expression under the Korean Constitution and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It means that a foreigner or an operator of an overseas website blocked in Korea by KCSC is able to file a lawsuit against KCSC for its infringement of freedom of expression. As a result, the right to access overseas information through the Internet and the right to know of Korean citizens, which can be infringed by KCSC’s indiscriminate blocking of overseas websites, would be further enhanced and guaranteed.
The court ‘s ruling is expected to be a momentum to advance the freedom of expression and the right to know on the Internet by putting a brake on KCSC’s indiscreet blocking practices.