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Tragic death of city official shows growing prevalence of doxing in Korea

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : March 8, 2024 - 15:53

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The suicide of a Gimpo city official, who became the target of malicious complaints after their personal information was leaked online, has sparked controversy in Korean society. In response, some netizens are pledging to reveal the identity of cyberbullies, shedding light on the concerning prevalence of doxing in South Korea.

As of Friday, the personal information of the user who revealed the late official’s name, department and phone number has been posted to many online communities.

“This person ruined the official’s life, so they should experience the same thing,” a comment reads.

Earlier, the employee's body was found inside a car in a parking lot in Seogu, Incheon, at around noon on Tuesday along with evidence of suicide, according to the Incheon Seobu Police.

The grade nine civil servant was in his 30s and worked for Gimpo City Hall. Prior to his death, he had suffered from complaints and malicious online comments from an unspecified group of people after a traffic jam caused by emergency construction led to his personal information being posted to an online community.

As the official's death became known to the public, Gimpo City announced that it would file a police report against the cyber bullies.

Though the police said they could not causally link the malicious online comments to the official's death, as there was no suicide note found, some netizens identified the account that left the comment revealing the official’s identity and began tracking down the user's personal information and making it public.

Experts believe that the social phenomenon of doxing happens due to cyber vigilantism and have expressed concerns. As this incident was caused by the disclosure of personal information, doing the same thing in retaliation could lead to another victim.

“Although the cyberbully did wrong, disclosing the bully’s personal information to punish may cause similar incidents to repeat,” Lee Byoung-hoon, a sociology emeritus professor at Chung-Ang University told local reporters.

“In our society, there are laws and enforcement agencies that allow perpetrators to take responsibility for actions that cause harm. Since these things have the function of maintaining social order, we should not do the same thing just to condemn bad behavior,” Lee added.

Generally, disclosing perpetrators’ personal information through the internet is a form of vigilantism in cyberspace.

“It happens mainly due to the deep-seated distrust of the judicial system. Those people who disclose perpetrators’ personal information online usually have distrust toward the state and a strong attitude toward criminals,” Lee Chae-young said in a paper on cyber vigilantism.