SUWON, Dec. 23 (Korea Bizwire) — An appellate court on Thursday issued a guilty verdict for the operator of a website that names parents who refuse to pay child support, overturning a lower court’s ruling that found the operator innocent.
The Suwon High Court delivered a suspended order to Koo Bon-chang, 58, to pay a fine of 1 million won (US$840) for running the name-and-shame website “Bad Fathers” for about three years until October.
The website publicly shared personal information, such as the age, residence and workplace, as well as photos of men and women whom their former partners or spouses accused of refusing to pay child support.
“Child support system is indeed a matter of public interest that goes beyond the claim-obligation relationship between two people … but identity disclosure of individuals is an entirely different problem,” the court said, explaining the conviction ruling.
“If we do not restrict the acts of taking the law into one’s own hands, people’s private lives and basic rights can be violated,” the court added.
The court also said “Bad Fathers” did not have appropriate standards for identity disclosure.
The website posted information on people whose child support payment deadline had not yet been reached, and in some cases, did not take down the articles after receiving complaints.
But the court said it decided to suspend the sentence as the defendant intended to resolve problems of divorced couples, did not pursue any personal interests with the website and raised awareness on the issue.
To replace the website, the government legislated a child support payment enforcement law that stipulates the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family assess the need and decide on the identity disclosure of those who refused to pay child support for a long time.
Since the law took effect in July, the gender ministry disclosed the identities of two individuals who refused to pay child support — their name, date of birth, profession and the amount and period of unpaid child support.
During the final hearing, Koo said he does not regret his actions as his website helped many children receive financial support from their divorced parents.