S. Korea spy agency ad­mits at­tempt­ing to rig pres­i­den­tial elec­tion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

SEOUL — South Korea’s spy agency ad­mit­ted on Thurs­day that it had en­gaged in a far-reach­ing at­tempt to ma­nip­u­late vot­ers as it sought to help con­ser­va­tives win par­lia­men­tary and pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

In-house in­ves­ti­ga­tors from the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice con­firmed the agency’s cy­ber war­fare unit or­ga­nized and op­er­ated up to 30 teams for more than two years in the run-up to the 2012 elec­tions, the agency said in a state­ment on Thurs­day.

They hired in­ter­net-savvy civil­ians and sought to sway voter opin­ions through post­ings on por­tals and Twit­ter.

“The teams were charged with spread­ing pro-gov­ern­ment opin­ions and sup­press­ing anti-gov­ern­ment views, brand­ing them as pro-North Korean forces’ at­tempts to dis­turb state af­fairs”, it said.

At the time, the coun­try was led by the con­ser­va­tive Lee Myung-bak, and the De­cem­ber 2012 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion was won by his now-dis­graced col­league Park Geun-hye, who de­feated lib­eral Moon Jae-in.

Moon was elected in May this year af­ter Park was im­peached and dis­missed over cor­rup­tion and abuse of power.

He has vowed to re­form the NIS to pre­vent it med­dling in elec­tions and make it fo­cus on col­lect­ing and an­a­lyz­ing in­tel­li­gence on for­eign af­fairs.

A spokesman for Park’s party, now in op­po­si­tion and re­named Lib­erty Korea, said on Fri­day the in­quiry was “po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated”.

“The NIS says it will dis­so­ci­ate it­self from pol­i­tics but it is med­dling in pol­i­tics again by start­ing this probe,” Kang Hyo-sang said in a state­ment.

For­mer NIS chief Won Sei­hoon is be­ing tried for the sec­ond time for lead­ing an on­line smear cam­paign against Moon, af­ter his ini­tial con­vic­tion was over­turned on ap­peal.

But the NIS in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­sults sug­gest the scale of the voter ma­nip­u­la­tion was far wider than pre­vi­ously thought.

The probe also found Won or­dered the agency to muz­zle the press, pro­vide sup­port for pro-gov­ern­ment con­ser­va­tive civic groups and put some ma­jor op­po­si­tion politi­cians un­der se­cret surveil­lance.

The NIS has been tainted by a se­ries of scan­dals, in­clud­ing the forg­ing of doc­u­ments to build a false spy­ing case against a for­mer Seoul of­fi­cial.

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