The Internet has become the latest weapon in the decades-long struggle between North Korea and South Korea.
In a move that illustrates the Internet's importance as a medium for political communication, the South Korean government yesterday broadcast a national directive forbidding its citizens from contacting North Koreans over the Internet, according to a Reuters news service report. In the state radio broadcast, the government threatened stern action against any South Korean citizen who visited a North Korean Web site.
The government is apparently justifying its action by citing the National Security Law, which prohibits any unauthorized contacts with North Korea. The two countries have been technically at war since their three-year conflict ended with a truce in 1953.
The decision was prompted by a report in a South Korean newspaper that a Web site with information about North Korea may be supported by the communist Pyongyang government. But Reuters reports that the home page in question was actually created by a Canadian student, David Burgess, who traveled to North Korea in 1995 and consists partly of pamphlets he found on North Korea's national airline.
The order is the latest of a recent spate of actions taken by various Asian countries on Internet regulation. While South Korea has focused on online communication between its citizens and that of its arch-enemy, other countries are concerned about the Internet disturbing the social status quo within their borders.
Just this week, for example, Vietnam issued strict rules regarding Internet communications, regulations in line with that country's existing restrictions affecting print media, video, fax, and telephone transmissions. Singapore and China have also instituted policies to regulate the use of the Internet by their citizens.