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Convicted for re-tweeting North Korea propaganda


An image of the North Korean government's Twitter feed.

A South Korean man was convicted for re-tweeting messages from North Korea's official Twitter feed, which is banned in the south. Courts have handed down a two year prison sentence, which was suspended, AFP reports.

Why is South Korea so terrified of its northern foe's goofy Twitter propaganda?

Sadly, I can't read Pyongyang's 140-character missives posted here via party mouthpiece Uriminzokkiri. (That's Korean for "our people.")

I've run a dozen or so through the Google Translate, which regurgitates a poor approximation of the source text. It appears Kim Jong Il's disciples are mostly tweeting different versions of "America is evil" and "Our steel factories are majestic." (Any Korean readers out there? I'd love to see proper translations posted in the comments section.)

The official Web site of North Korea (powered by Wordpress!) does post semi-regular updates in English.

If Pyongyang's Korean-language tweets are anything like its English posts, South Korea's government has nothing to worry about.

Here we have the straight-faced pronouncement that "the South Korean people highly admire leader Kim Jong Il" and vague threats of ballistic missiles cowing the American populace as they "explode before the Statue of Liberty."

I also learned that "Billy Graham, US evangelist … and other foreigners praised him as the incarnation of human love." (Which is a hyperbolic spin on a little-known fact: Graham was friendly with the dictator's dad.)

None of this seems likely to convince South Koreans, already forced to live under the threat of North Korean nukes, that Kim Jong Il is actually a really terrific guy.

Still, South Korean authorities take the north's propaganda seriously. They've banned scores of Web sites and, now, sent a warning to the public that disseminating tweets will bring real punishment. The 55-year-old man who was sentenced explained he was only trying to pass on news about North Korea, which sounds reasonable.

Even the U.S. State Department has argued against blocking North Korea's Twitter feed, the Korea Times reports.