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In summer or winter vacations, he goes online for two to three hours a day, wading through web page after web page looking for North Korea sympathizers. For each spell online, he would usually report three to four cases to the intelligence agency. He wants to work for the government in the area of national defense.

It is unclear if there is a link between the Internet patrolling and the rise in prosecutions or increased government censorship of the Internet. The amount of pro-North Korea commentary on the Internet and the level of censorship waxes and wanes with the degree of tension between the two nations.

The conservative government that took power in 2008 has taken a harder line against North Korea sympathizers. Last year it blocked access to 187 pro-North Korean accounts on Twitter and other social networking services. It also removed 79,038 online posts that glorified North Korea, about a 40-fold increase from 2008.

“Cyber activities undermining national security have been increasing but what the state can do about them is limited,” said Yoo Dong-ryul, a senior researcher at the conservative Police Science Institute, a state-run think tank. The teenage activists are part of a “self-cleansing process without state intervention.”

The Supreme Prosecutors Office said it received 127 recommendations to prosecute alleged violations of the security law last year, double the number in 2009. The number of suspects indicted rose from 43 to 63 in the same period.

In 2010, 52 people were indicted by prosecutors. Some 20 were found guilty and seven received prison sentences, according to Lee Yong-kyung, a former lawmaker of a minor opposition party, who received the figures from the Ministry of Justice.

It’s not known how many of those prison sentences were for glorifying North Korea. The justice ministry and the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office didn’t respond to requests for details.

A focal point for the activists is Naver, South Korea’s largest web portal, which hosts three online communities dedicated to weeding out pro-North Korean sentiment. All have started in the past one to two years.

The “Blue Eyes” community was launched following North Korea’s artillery attack on Yeonpyeong island and attracted over 4,000 members with over half under 30, said its manager Jang Mun-jun. Another online group started by a 15-year-old attracted nearly 1,000 members, mostly teens, in a little over a year.

Members proudly share the screen images of pro-North Korean content they have submitted to the intelligence agency and encourage each other.

These have also made inroads into Twitter to counter left-wing pundits advancing reconciliation with the North. The microblogging service has become popular among South Korean liberals who are critical of President Lee Myung-bak.

Twitter is not a tool for communication but a weapon,” said one 16-year-old student who had reported more than 100 cases of pro-North Korean online content to the intelligence agency. “Joining Twitter is a must-do for patriotic activities.” The student requested anonymity, citing the possibility of becoming a target for pro-North Korea activists who might include teachers.

Kim Jong-bo, a member of Lawyers for a Democratic Society, said that having grown up with anti-communism education, he can understand why students follow the government without questioning.

“I’d like to tell them to listen to different opinions,” Kim said.