A South Korean journalist has been acquitted of sympathising with North Korea by following its Twitter account. The court ruled that simply reading Pyongyang's social media posts on Twitter did not violate Seoul's security laws.
The 73-year-old man, who was identified only by his surname Lee, was earlier charged him with "distributing" materials that praised the communist North Korea by following its official Twitter account, @uriminzok. Lee was however found guilty of supporting North Korea in his own blog postings. He was sentenced to a one year jail term, suspended for two years.
South Korea's National Security Laws that were enacted in 1948 were aimed at protecting the then fledgling state from infiltration by North Korea. It bans its citizens from praising or sympathising with Pyongyang.
Despite criticism that the law is open to abuse and stifles free speech, the authorities insist the national Security Laws are still relevant and justified in view of the continued threat from North Korea.
The Seoul Western District Court, in its judgement said that since Lee had not re-tweeted or mentioned any of the North Korean posts on his own account, he had not broken the law. "It can't be said that he 'distributed' those posts as they were only shown on Lee's own account and were not shown to other people, such as Lee's followers," the court said in a statement.
North Korea joined the world of social media in 2010. It has posted more than 17,500 tweets, mostly criticising its neighbour South Korea and the US, as well as praising its own leaders. Its Twitter account has over 18,500 followers.