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South Korean blogger cleared

A BLOGGER charged with spreading false information on the Internet has been cleared by a South Korean court. The case had sparked heated debate over freedom of speech in cyberspace.

Park Dae-sung, 30, an unemployed Seoul resident, was acquitted by the Seoul Central District Court, with presiding Judge Yoo Young-hyeon saying he could not see that Park "had the intention to undermine public interest."

Park, writing under the pen name "Minerva" after the Greek goddess of wisdom, caused a sensation in South Korea last year by denouncing the government's handling of the economy and making largely negative predictions.

Some of those, including the collapse of United States investment bank Lehman Brothers, proved correct, helping spark interest in his online postings and raising questions about his identity.

Prosecutors accused him of falsely writing that the government had banned major financial institutions and trade businesses from buying US dollars, and indicted him in January. They sought an 18-month prison sentence.

Park described himself in Web entries as a former securities firm employee with a master's degree earned in the United States and experience in the field of corporate acquisitions and takeovers.

But prosecutors said Park was an unemployed Seoul resident who studied economics on his own after graduating from a vocational high school and junior college with a major in information and communication.

Opposition political parties and government critics have argued that Park's arrest was aimed at silencing criticism of the government and that it restricted online freedom of speech.

Park's identity became public only after his arrest in January, and few details of his life story are known.

He had made some 280 postings on bulletin boards on a popular Internet portal. His writings were sprinkled with jargon that suggested he was an economic expert, and his identity was a hot topic of discussion in South Korea.


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