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Prescient Young Blogger Did What S. Korea Couldn't -- Foresee Global Financial Crisis

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By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, January 24, 2009

SEOUL

As a financial blogger named Minerva, Park Dae-sung was the dark prophet of market decline in South Korea.

In this education-obsessed country, where academic credentials are often taken as a measure of human value, he was also something of an idiot savant. He had no degree in economics. He had no professional experience in finance. He was not a wealthy investor.

He had been a so-so student who studied communications at a so-so junior college in a backwater town south of Seoul. Thirty-one years old and single, he spent much of his time alone in his room. As his father noted, "He can't even get a job."

But he knew a global economic smack-down when he saw one.

Minerva saw it coming last fall, far earlier and with far more acuity than the South Korean government, which his blog has humiliated and angered.

Besides getting mad, the government got even. In a move widely perceived by the public as a chilling echo of the 1970s, when a military dictatorship ruled South Korea, the government detained Park this month, invoking a seldom-used telecommunications law that charges him with harming the public by spreading "false rumors."

Yet Minerva (no one knew him as Park until police raided his house Jan. 7) made his reputation by spreading rumors that turned out to be all too true.

He predicted the collapse of Lehman Brothers five days before it happened. He predicted a sharp decline in the value of South Korea's currency a few days before the won imploded against the dollar.

By the time he was taken away from his computer in handcuffs, he was a cyber-sensation. His blog had garnered more than 40 million page views (there are 48 million people in this well-wired country). He was lionized in the South Korean news media as the "online oracle" and the "Internet president of the economy."

Although Park has told authorities he is Minerva, claims have emerged here that Minerva might be a few people. Several economic and financial experts have said they wrote online postings under the name. Prosecutors, though, have declined to investigate, saying they have irrefutable electronic evidence that Minerva is Park.


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