South Korea Cracks Down On Selfie Sticks, So Beware, Selfie Takers, Beware
To most of us, selfies may seem harmless — possibly vain, possibly revolutionary, but mostly harmless. To South Korea, however, selfies are downright criminal. At least if you're using one of the "selfie sticks" that the country has recently started cracking down on.
"Selfie sticks," for those who have never thought this much about taking the perfect selfie, are pretty much just what they sound like: handheld, adjustable sticks that can be used to hold a phone further away from your body in order to perfect your selfie game. Because the sticks have bluetooth capability — otherwise how would you get your phone to take a picture while it's out of reach — they are apparently in violation of the nation's “Wireless Telegraphy Act," which regulates all devices that give off electromagnetic waves, in the interest of public health.
And it seems they are really taking this seriously, too. The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning announced recently that they will be stepping up their search for unregistered selfie sticks and ask that citizens help "root out the distribution of illegal broadcasting communications devices such as uncertified camera-extender rods." Anyone caught selling the devices will face fines in as much as 30 million won ($27,000), and up to three years in prison.
Seriously, prison? For selling devices that help people take pictures? Does that not strike anyone else as a little...extreme?
As Quartz notes, this move is highly unpopular with lots of people in South Korea where selfies have been popular since the 1990s, way before smartphones appeared and the rest of the world caught on to how awesome it is to be able to take pictures of yourself whenever you feel like it.
So far it seems that the government isn't enforcing the rule too harshly, even after the recent announcement — BBC notes that there are no reports of selfie stick vendors being targeted by police at major South Korean attractions. But still, the whole thing seems a little extreme.
Or maybe we in the United States just aren't worried enough about the public health risks of electromagnetic waves. Honestly, given our lackluster consumer protections, that also sounds pretty plausible.