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Opposition lawmaker claims NIS, military colluded in 2012 election

An opposition lawmaker claimed Thursday that two state bodies accused of illegal electioneering had colluded to aid the election of President Park Geun-hye.

According to main opposition Democratic Party Rep. Jung Cheong-rae, agents from the National Intelligence Service and the military’s cyber warfare unit met repeatedly from January 2012 to consult with one another in preparation for December’s election.

“Although I am not aware of the exact comments that were exchanged at those meetings, I strongly suspect that those officials worked out the details of their collaboration during those get-togethers,” said Jung.

The NIS and the cyber warfare command are among those accused of posting online comments attacking Park’s competitors in the election despite decrees strictly forbidding government officials from politicking.

Whether the institutions under investigation acted independently, or did so after following orders, and whether there was collaboration among those accused have been points of contention for prosecutors, politicians, and the public.

Jung further accused NIS chief Nam Jae-joon of stealing portions of agents’ salaries to illegally donate 60 million won ($56,588) to the service’s former third deputy chief Lee Jong-myung.

The NIS disputed Jung’s claims.

“The alleged conspiracy meetings were routine meetings for coordinating everyday tasks” said an NIS official, according to news reports. “As for the 60 million won accusation, we have nothing to say except that it has no validity whatsoever. We will consider legal action to counter the claims.”

The military’s cyber unit declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigations into election meddling.

The government’s intelligence and cyber security branches have been at the center of a seemingly endless verbal war between the ruling Saenuri Party and the DP regarding possible constitutional violations in last year’s race to Cheong Wa Dae.

President Park has rejected the opposition’s demand for an apology while calling for all parties to refrain from further bickering.

“I will ensure that those found to be responsible for any wrongdoing will pay,” Park said on Thursday. “We should, however, patiently wait for the prosecution to finish their investigations before commenting further.”

By Jeong Hunny (hj257@heraldcorp.com)
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