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Selfie Sticks Could Lead To Jail Time In South Korea

Retailers are being threatened with prison if they sell unregistered versions of the controversial device.

Posted on November 27, 2014, at 9:52 a.m. ET

While the great “pro- or anti-selfie stick” debate continues to rage on, South Korean lawmakers have upped the, erm, “anti” by threatening to jail selfie stick retailers.

Ed Jones/AFP / Getty Images

The country's Science Ministry announced that retailers selling untested versions of the handheld monopods could face a fine of 30 million won ($27,000) or prison time of up to three years, Quartz reported.

Ed Jones/AFP / Getty Images

The ministry has said selfie sticks with Bluetooth functionality should be classified as a frequency-emitting form of communication, and therefore subject to rounds of rigorous testing before sale.

Ed Jones/AFP / Getty Images

Selfie sticks use Bluetooth technology to release smartphones' camera shutters remotely, rather than using a timer.

The South Korean government is concerned about the health implications of electromagnetic radiation. Although low levels are not considered harmful, South Korea's Wireless Telegraphy Act states that all devices that emit electromagnetic waves must be certified.

The government has asked for the public's help in "rooting out" retailers selling untested devices, and last week said it would begin checks on sellers.

Ed Jones/AFP / Getty Images

Despite the heavy potential penalty, the selfie-stick crackdown so far seems to have been relatively low-key, with no mass raids on vendors selling untested devices, AFP reported.

An official at the Science 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."

Nonetheless, bloggers in the country are skeptical, calling the move an unnecessary form of government control over consumers, an intentional attack on small retailers, and a contradiction of President Park Geun-hye's push towards a "creative economy," Quartz reported.

Selfie-stick retailers themselves seem to be taking the crackdown in their stride. One kiosk owner in Seoul's Myeongdong district told AFP: "I was told about the new regulation, but the ones I sell are all certified, so I haven't had any problems with the police or anything. But I know some of the bigger sellers had to get rid of some of their stock which hadn't been registered."

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