Cyberwarfare officials were found to have posted some 30,000 political comments over the last several years in an apparent violation of the military rules on political neutrality, a government source said Wednesday.
The figure is double the previous number, which the Ministry of National Defense announced in its interim report last December after referring 11 officials to the military prosecution for posting comments that might have affected the 2012 presidential election.
“The ministry’s Criminal Investigation Command has restored online postings that were deleted by cyberwarfare officials. And there were some 30,000 comments related to politics,” the source told media on condition of anonymity.
Among those comments, there were some 6,000 that criticized or supported specific political parties or politicians ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections.
The CIC is expected to announce the final result of its probe at the end of this month. Observers said that more officials, including former and current cyberwarfare chiefs, might face disciplinary action or be prosecuted by the military.
Some have presumed that former cyberwarfare commander Yeon Jae-wook, currently a presidential secretary for defense affairs, is likely to be reprimanded for negligent supervision, as many of the controversial postings were made during his term from 2011-2012.
While announcing the interim result of its two-month investigation last December, the ministry said that it found 2,100 political comments, far less than some 6,000 comments that military investigators have found.
The ministry argued that the cyberagents in question wrote comments on social media sites, blogs and other Internet communities as part of their psychological warfare operations to counter ill-intentioned political activities by North Korea and its followers in the South.
At the time, the ministry also dismissed the allegation that the cyberwarfare command interfered in the 2012 presidential election on an organizational level.
Instead, it said the psychological warfare chief of the command, surnamed Lee, directed his operatives “not to hesitate to use political expressions” in their psychological warfare activities over national security issues.
The main opposition Democratic Party has been calling for a special probe by an independent counsel into government agencies’ alleged illegal electioneering.
The DP suspects that military operatives and intelligence agents staged a collective, clandestine smear campaign last year to help the ruling Saenuri Party’s then-candidate Park Geun-hye in a tight presidential race.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)