Blogger Acquitted in Seoul

A South Korean judge ruled Monday that a blogger arrested after criticizing government economic policies was not guilty of spreading false information, the latest step in the country's struggle to balance freedom of speech with the potentially damaging effects of anonymous online postings.

In his ruling, Seoul Central District Judge Yu Young-hyun found that Park Dae-sung, a 30-year-old unemployed man from Seoul who posted opinion pieces about economics on a Korean Web site under the pseudonym "Minerva," didn't write to "intentionally harm the public interest."

The judge found that Mr. Park, a junior college graduate, didn't understand some of the subjects he was writing about, including currency-exchange processes. Mr. Park's work was published on a message board about the economy on the Daum portal — the second-most popular Internet portal in South Korea.

The judge rejected prosecutors' claim that a posting by Mr. Park on Dec. 29 led to a one-day sharp decline in the value of the South Korean won. In the posting, Mr. Park wrote that the government asked banks not to buy dollars to prop up the won — an apparent contradiction of Seoul's policy to try to secure more dollars for banks, amid limited foreign currency. The South Korean government said Mr. Park's assertions were untrue.

Last fall, Mr. Park became famous in South Korea for a posting in early September predicting Lehman Brothers would collapse. Lehman's difficulties were well-known at the time, but fans of Mr. Park's writing and local newspapers focused attention on his forecast after the investment bank failed in mid-September.

Mr. Park's pseudonym prompted speculation about his identity and background. Most of his hundreds of posts were critical of the government and his popularity seemed to spring from the notion that he was an investment banker or a government official with inside information about South Korea's financial system. Mr. Park's identity was revealed after his arrest in January.

Prosecutors said they would appeal.