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“Who will watch the watchers?”


My two favorite games to play are chess and poker. I like these games because of the intense concentration and skill required to play them. They test your ability to solve complex problems, anticipate future moves by your opponent, and create counter moves through the use of logic, psychology, and math. And if good sense fails, introducing chaos as a strategy always gives you one more option.

There are numerous websites where one can play chess. At these sites, you can practice checkmate moves, study tactics, learn opening moves, explore the endgame, and of course, play against other people.

There are also numerous websites where one can play poker, but you will never see them in this country. And if you do, you will never be able to play on them. If you try to visit the largest and most famous poker site in the world, you will come across a blue and white screen with the word “Warning” printed across it. This warning is issued by something called the KCSC. If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you will see that KCSC refers to the Korea Communications Standards Commission. Next to that, you will also see an emblem for the National Police Agency.

Are you afraid yet?

The KCSC was previously called the Information and Communication Ethics Committee. I’m guessing that title was a little too transparent, so a new, more officious, appropriately vague name was created. Careful wording really is everything these days.

The KCSC believes that people have the right to post political comments online, but only if the people enter their government-issued ID numbers first. The KCSC is a nonpartisan agency, as long as you don’t express anti-government sentiments. The KCSC does not support big business, or anything one has to say against big business. The KCSC does not monitor content on social networks or mobile apps, unless they want to. The KCSC does not delete posts and comments online, as long as they approve of your point of view. And the KCSC does not order Internet service providers to block IP addresses of disfavored websites, except for my favorite poker site, and tens of thousands of others.

For the record, I have never played poker for real money on the Internet. I have never played chess for money, either. I play for fun. The KCSC is protecting me from having fun. The KCSC also wants to protect you from having fun, from opinions that they do not agree with, and from information and services that they believe you should never see.

Reporters Without Borders is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that defends freedom of information, and focuses on Internet censorship. Based on their research and investigation, they have compiled a list of “Countries Under Surveillance”. These countries stand out for their capacity to censor news and information, and repress Internet users. There are 14 countries on the list, including Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and South Korea. Just stop and think about that list for a moment.

In chess and poker, your opponent is seen. In the battle for freedom of information, your opponents are often not seen. But your opponents can be understood by the moves they make. It may take some concentration and skill to see through them. It may test your ability to solve complex problems, and anticipate future moves. You may need to create counter moves. And if good sense fails, introducing chaos may just present one more option.

James Kim  -

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