Former chiefs of the National Intelligence Service and Seoul police took a battering from lawmakers Friday in a parliamentary hearing over their involvement in a smear campaign against the opposition during last year’s presidential election and subsequent cover-up attempts.
Opposition lawmakers slammed Won Sei-hoon, former NIS head, and Kim Yong-pan, former commissioner of Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, pushing them to open up about the scandal.
They denied all allegations and traded harsh words with the lawmakers.
“I deny all accusations by the prosecution,” Won said during a second-round of hearings held in the afternoon.
|Former National Intelligence Service Director Won Sei-hoon (left) and former Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency Commissioner Kim Yong-pan attend a parliamentary hearing on Friday. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)|
Both attended the session only after the National Assembly issued an order of accompaniment in response to defiance to previous summons.
As the session opened, they refused to take an oath, saying their testimonies could negatively affect ongoing court trials.
They have been indicted on charges of violating the Public Official Election Act.
Won is accused of ordering NIS agents to engage in an online smear campaign to sway public opinion in favor of President Park Geun-hye, while Kim is alleged to have been behind the lukewarm police investigation into the case. Won is currently detained by the prosecution over a separate bribery case.
“Because of this incident, (I have) an ongoing criminal trial as well as the parliamentary investigation at the same time,” Kim said at the beginning of the hearing in the morning. “I chose not to take oath in concern of my testimony being distorted and misinterpreted through the media and that affecting (my) trial,” he said.
Rep. Park Young-sun of the main opposition Democratic Party bashed Kim that his refusal to take an oath was an “insult to the people” and shows his intention to “lie to the people.”
But Rep. Kim Jin-tae of the ruling Saenuri Party countered that the parliament has to “guarantee witnesses’ basic human rights.”
Though not illegal, it is the first time that a witness has refused to take an oath before a parliamentary testimony.
Asked of NIS’ alleged meddling in the election, the former head of the intelligence agency said the comments posted online by its agents were a part of “anti-North Korea psychological warfare” and not to interfere in the election.
Won also claimed that the NIS agents posting comments on state affairs were conducted even during the Roh Moo-hyun government when he pushed ahead with a free trade agreement between Korea and the United States.
Kim also selectively answered lawmakers’ questions and denied all accusations made by the prosecution against him.
The prosecution indicted Kim in June, saying that he allegedly pressured a police team at Suseo Police Station in southern Seoul investigating the NIS agents last year to hurriedly announce an interim result days before the election, clearing the agents of charges of smear campaigning.
The district police said on Dec. 16, only three days before the presidential election, that no evidence of political interference by the agents had been found.
Kim said he did not believe that the police made a false report at that time.
By Cho Chung-un