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Time to display leadership as powerhouse in cyber space

Posted October. 19, 2013 08:52,   


The Seoul Conference on Cyberspace 2013 ended on Friday. It was the third annual conference since the first event in 2011. Unlike the first and second events that were gatherings of primarily advanced countries, this year’s event was promoted to a truly global general assembly that bought together 87 countries and 18 international organizations. The event was especially significant because it represented the largest information communications technology-related international conference that took place in Korea, an ICT powerhouse.

Under the theme “Global Prosperity through an Open and Secure Cyberspace,” the conference convened discussions on six topics including cyber attack and hacking. Three of them were economic growth and development, freedom of expression and capacity building, while the other three were regulatory issues including cybercrime and international security. None of them were areas that could be lightly dealt with in order to ensure the development and security of cyber world.

The focus of related debate was “Who will regulate the cyber space.” Western countries that emphasize freedom of expression view that it should be left on the private sector to the extent possible, while China and Russia countered this with argument that “the state should spearhead.” These two countries implement policy that seeks to thoroughly prevent debate in cyber space from possible transforming into factors of threat to their regimes. The world is thus clearly divided into two starkly different blocs according to ideology and regimes even in cyber space. For this reason, the “Seoul Framework,” which was adopted right before the conference’s closing, hardly went beyond the scope of declaring principle for respective issues.

Korea maintains a double-sided stance. As an ICT powerhouse that spearheads the world, Korea has to emphasize vitality in the private sector. This also complies with direction of state agenda for creative economy. However, North Korea continues cyber attacks on South Korea targeting the latter’s core social systems, including the government, financial institutions and media organizations. South Korea also has the disgraceful name of the hotbed of cyber crimes, including phishing via both web (wired) and app (wireless), while suffering massive damage due to social ills caused by the spreading of groundless rumors via online and economic losses due to computer virus. The entire society encompassing the government, companies and individuals will have to stage a campaign to clean cyber space.

Korea is thus facing an uncomfortable situation, but on the flip side, Korea can serve as a mutual broker between the two sides. While stressing creativity in the private sector with regard to freedom of expression, Korea will need to present a policy of compromise that calls for proactive roles of the state and reinforcement of international collaboration to address cyber security concern and crimes. Even though being the most advanced in the level of ICT development, South Korea is highly vulnerable to cyber threats. Korea has the grave responsibility to display international leadership in establishing rules and regulation for cyber space.