South Korean blogger found not guilty

An Internet blogger nicknamed Minerva was acquitted by a Seoul court Monday on charges that he spread malicious rumors about the South Korean economy that cost the government billions of dollars.

Park Dae-sung was released after the court’s ruling that he did not violate telecommunications laws with his popular weblogs, which regularly pontificated on South Korea’s ailing economy, castigated policymakers and forecast dire scenarios that many investors took to heart.

The case was seen as a legal test balloon for the year-old Lee Myung-bak administration, which has tried to curtail critics within the media. Many expected that Park would do prison time.

Walking out of court on a rainy afternoon after three months in custody, Park told reporters he was glad to be free. “I’m sorry for causing any trouble to society and wish this case to contribute to improving democracy as well as human rights,” he said.


His lawyer, Park Chan-jong, applauded the court’s decision.

“I was absolutely sure that he was innocent,” he said. “However, I had questioned whether judgment of an acquittal could be made. I was a little bit shocked to see that the judiciary is still alive.”

Prosecutors in Seoul say they will file an appeal.

Through his online alias Minerva, after the Roman goddess of wisdom, Park criticized the government for what he called its blunders in responding to the ongoing global financial crisis.

In a Dec. 29 posting, he wrote that officials had ordered financial institutions to stop buying dollars as the government tried to curb the fall of the won, South Korea’s currency, against the greenback.

The posting devastated the local foreign exchange market, forcing the nation’s financial authority to spend $2 billion to bolster the won as the demand for dollars surged wildly.

Prosecutors said Park destabilized the nation’s currency market.

But the court disagreed.

“Park wrote the articles without the knowledge that his posting contained false information,” it said in its ruling. “Even if he was aware of it, he didn’t intend to harm the public interest.”

Lawyer Park said his client was prepared to face more court proceedings if prosecutors should appeal Monday’s decision.

For now, Minerva’s future remains unclear.

On Monday, Park Dae-sung was vague about whether he would resume his financial blog.

“I will continue to write articles on various topics,” he told reporters.