Watch out! Selfie sticks could land you in jail in South Korea

Look at that selfie stick in your hand. Is it a harmless memory-maker? Or a potentially dangerous electromagnetic radiation emitter?

In South Korea, it seems, the selfie stick is both.

Last week, the Science Ministry announced that anyone selling an unregistered version could face a US$27,000 (S$35,000) fine or up to three years in prison.

Given their numbers - and how South Koreans have embraced the technology with a passion - regulating the sale of these small, articulated monopods designed for cell phone-wielding photographers won’t be easy.

The ministerial crackdown is focusing on those models that come with bluetooth technology, allowing the user to release the smartphone shutter remotely rather than with a timer.

Likely disruption is a problem

The problem, the ministry says, is that such units are designated as communications equipment given their use of radio waves to provide a wireless link between separate devices.

As such, they have to be tested and certified to ensure they don’t pose a disruption to other devices using the same radio frequency.

Ministry officials admit the crackdown is basically motivated by a technicality, given that the weak short-range signals emitted by bluetooth devices are hardly likely to bring down a plane or interfere with police frequencies.

Here's what an official at the ministry’s Central Radio Management Office told AFP:

"It’s not going to affect anything in any meaningful way, but it is nonetheless a telecommunication device subject to regulation,

and that means we are obligated to crack down on uncertified ones."

Low-key police raids

Despite the harsh penalty on offer, the “crackdown” appears to have been relatively low-key.

There have been no mass police raids on unsuspecting selfie stick vendors.

"The announcement last Friday (Nov 21) was really just to let people know that they need to be careful about what they sell," said the official.

"We’ve had a lot of calls from vendors who think they might have been unknowingly selling uncertified products," he added.

Source: AFP


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