Prime Minister Chung Hong-won on Monday said that the government would get to the bottom of the alleged election interference by the spy agency, calling on political parties to end their wrangling over the issue and focus on the economy and crucial national agenda.
“The government will uncover the truth and the cause behind the series of allegations including the National Intelligence Service’s online comments,” Chung said in his first address to the public.
|Prime Minister Chung Hong-won delivers his public address on Monday. (Yonhap News)|
He reiterated that President Park Geun-hye received no help from the NIS in her campaign. The government will not hesitate to punish those responsible once the investigation and trials are complete, he added.
Saying that economic recovery should take priority, Chung went on to urge the political parties to quickly process economy-related bills including those aimed at stimulating foreign investment and tourism.
The main opposition Democratic Party, however, criticized the prime minister, saying that the statement appeared to be a ploy to “water down” the situation, and that his understanding of the state of affairs was “pathetic.”
The DP also honed in on Chung’s use of the word “still” in referring to the fact that the political arena continues to be mired in developments that took place before the presidential election.
“What is the reason that conflict and confusion are ‘still’ being caused by the NIS’ online comments and NLL controversies? The public wants to trust (the government) and wait, but waiting is not possible looking at today’s Cheong Wa Dae and the government,” DP spokesperson Rep. Bae Jae-jeung said. The NLL refers to the Northern Limit Line ― the de facto inter-Korean maritime border in the West Sea, which late President Roh Moo-hyun has been accused of conceding to Pyongyang by the ruling Saenuri Party.
“(The public) wants the president to personally order the NIS and other government organizations to be independent, and to show the determination to prevent recurrences. (The president) should not ignore the chance provided by the opposition party and the public.”
In addition, alleged election interference by the military’s Cyber Command also continued to make ripples across the political arena.
According to the DP, a number of Cyber Command officials were involved in a systematic effort to mar the opposition candidate’s campaign. The concerned officials, however, have since stated that the online postings were their personal opinions.
The Ministry of National Defense is currently conducting an investigation into the allegations.
Along with alleged election meddling, the DP has honed in on Park’s recent personnel choices, accusing the president of regional bias in naming high-level officials.
The prime minister, prosecutor general nominee Kim Jin-tae, Board of Audit and Inspection chief nominee Hwang Chan-hyun as well as presidential Chief of Staff Staff Kim Ki-choon and senior civil affairs secretary Hong Kyung-shik come from South Gyeongsang Province.
“Far from being unbiased, personnel management in Cheong Wa Dae, Cabinet and (legal and audit) authorities are becoming increasingly skewed towards a specific region. A new PK-era has opened,” DP floor leader Rep. Jun Byung-hun said. PK refers to Busan and Gyeongsang provinces.
“Of the high-level officials at the four major authorities including the prosecution, police and the National Tax Service, 41 percent are from a specific region. (Park’s) promise of grand-integration is extinct.”
By Choi He-suk