Friday, January 9, 2009

Minerva: In the News

Minerva, Roman goddess who invented music, and was the patron of warriors, poetry, wisdom, crafts and commerce, has been big in the news here lately. Well, not that Minerva, actually, but a Korean blogger using that avatar.

It seems Minerva has been predicting--with great success--turmoil in the world economic markets. He predicted the bankruptcy of Lehman Bros., the collapse of the Korean stock market and the sharp devaluation of the won against foreign currencies.
So, they shot the messenger. Too bad they couldn’t do the same to the guy who updates the stock market numbers, which continue to sink like a lead balloon.
The Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office has sought an arrest warrant for a 30-year-old man identified as Park, who confessed of being the real person behind famed Internet pundit, "Minerva," on charges of spreading "groundless" allegations about the country’s ailing economy.
Law enforcement officers are eager to punish Park, who they’ve searched for months, claiming that he deliberately created confusion in financial markets by distorting facts.
However, critics argue that Park’s detainment is the latest example of the government’s inability to handle online criticism properly, with authorities going overboard in efforts to abate the rabble in cyberspace.

The above is the opening of a Korea Times article written by Kim Tong-hyung, which points out the larger context of the arrest, unlike other stories, say, in the JoongAng Daily or Dong-A Ilbo.

The administration of Lee Myung-bak has been hammered by bloggers since its earliest days, first about the beef import situation, then about falling behind the economic curve as it failed to act decisively at the beginning of the downturn.

Further, bloggers and other online commenters have been blamed for at least contributing to a pair of high-profile celebrity suicides here. The government spearheaded an online courtesy educational initiative, a report on which is today's contribution on the Minerva affair from the Korea Herald.

Minerva gave prosecutors an opening on Dec. 29 when he posted a story that the government sent a memo to seven major banks and export companies urging them to cease purchasing US dollars beginning at 2:30 PM that day. Turns out, he had gotten bad information; the false story amounts to “spreading false rumors with an intention to harm the public” - a violation of telecommunications law, according to prosecutors. A jail term of up to five years or a fine of up to 50 million won is the punishment. Ouch.

Note to fellow bloggers: In our haste to scoop on the latest new restaurant find, or the infighting between the Geeky and Really Geeky factions of our second period class, or the newest political machinations of Dumpy Co-teacher, let us remember the moral of the story--Minerva is a sissy Internet nickname for a dude.

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