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Korea toughens rules on online news

South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said Monday that it would toughen regulations governing online news companies and services, beginning this Thursday.

Under the revised Newspaper Law, media companies with editorial staffs of five, rather than the current three, will be allowed to register with the ministry and operate online news services.

They will also be required to hand in supporting documents showing that their employees will be and are receiving benefits such as health insurance, pension and laborers’ safety insurance. The documents must also include information of their recruitment plans, according to the Culture Ministry.

Previously, companies needed just three reporters and editors to register online news businesses, for which only a list of employees was required. Information concerning employees’ benefits was not required.

This was aimed at boosting the range and diversity of media outlets in line with efforts to reduce the influence of three newspaper giants -- Chosun, Joongang and Dong-a.

However, the relaxed digital news registration system has resulted in a growing number of services fiercely competing to provide “sensational and tabloidish news” in order to gain traffic and advertising deals, the Culture Ministry said.

“The former registration system for Internet news led to the creation of about 1,000 online news outlets every year. The implementation of the revised law will be able to resolve this problem and others concerning outlets providing sensational news,” the ministry said in a press statement Monday.

The government will give existing online news companies a year to meet its revised requirements and re-register their businesses, the ministry said.

The revised Newspaper Law also called on “all news outlets” to strengthen their responsibility toward the young under its youth protection clause.

Online news media companies, regardless of their size and sales, must operate as “responsible companies” under the youth protection law, and block and prevent online distribution of content and materials hazardous to the young.

Previously, only those with more than 100,000 daily users or sales of more than 1 billion won were required to meet this obligation under a law governing information and juvenile protection.

“We expect the revision enabling stronger youth protection will allow the young to safely consume Internet news,” said the Culture Ministry.

By Park Hyong-ki (hkp@heraldcorp.com)



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