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Prosecutors seek prison sentence for SK blogger

PROSECUTORS are calling for an 18-month sentence for a popular South Korean blogger accused of spreading false financial information in a case that has ignited a debate about freedom of speech in cyberspace.

The 30-year-old blogger, a fierce critic of government economic policy, was arrested in January after he wrote that the government had banned major financial institutions and trade businesses from buying United States dollars.

Prosecutors have said the posting was not only inaccurate, but it had affected the foreign exchange market and undermined the nation's credibility.

But opposition parties and critics have claimed the arrest is aimed at silencing criticism of the government and restricting online freedom of speech.

Seoul District Court spokesman Kwon Tae-young said prosecutors demanded 18 months in prison for the blogger, identified as Park Dae-sung, and the court is scheduled to deliver a verdict on April 20.

The charge carries a penalty of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million won (US$38,000).

The blogger, known by the pen name "Minerva" after the Greek goddess of wisdom, gained fame after some predictions, including the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers, proved correct.

In some 280 postings last year, he denounced the government's handling of the economy and made largely negative predictions.

His writings are sprinkled with jargon that suggested he was an economic expert, and his identity was a hot topic of discussion in South Korea. In fact, prosecutors said, he is an unemployed Seoul resident.


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