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U.S. deems S. Korea a ‘priority’ pirate

Country joins Ukraine, could lead to trade sanctions

South Korea has the highest percentage of homes in the world with high-speed Internet access. It also has one of the highest levels of online piracy of music and movies, according to the U.S. Trade Representative.

Following a months-long special review of Korea’s handling of piracy issues, the U.S. government last week put the country on a “Priority Watch List” that could lead to trade sanctions. Korea had already been on a “Watch List” of countries that the U.S. considers to inadequately protect holders of U.S. copyrights.

If talks between Korea and the U.S. on piracy, expected to take place early this year, do not produce adequate results, Korea could be designated a “Priority Foreign Country,” which in turn could lead to sanctions. Currently, Ukraine is the only country so designated.

“The pirating of U.S. intellectual property robs Americans and hurts those countries whose economies rely on innovation, technology and investment,” said U.S. trade rep Robert B. Zoellick. “The administration is committed to protecting American creativity and intellectual property … and we’ll vigorously press our trading partners to follow the rules.”

Korea is the United States’ sixth largest export market. Industry reps estimate Korea caused $572 million in losses to U.S. copyright owners in 2002.

Korea joins 11 other countries on the Priority Watch List — Argentina, Bahamas, Brazil, the EU, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, the Philippines, Poland, Russia and Taiwan.

Movie piracy, while not as widespread as music piracy, has the major studios worried as the proliferation of high-speed Internet connections make trading massive digital movie files increasingly easy.

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