NIS reform prompts political feud, possibility of new investigation

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Aug 9, 2017 - 17:47
  • Updated : Aug 9, 2017 - 18:00
Criminal investigation into the National Intelligence Service’s alleged wrongdoings during previous administrations appears increasingly likely, with potential evidence piling up.

The possible investigation could extend as far up as former President Lee Myung-bak, who the ruling Democratic Party of Korea accuses of being behind the spy agency’s alleged attempts at manipulating public opinion during his term.

According to reports, a committee in charge of reforming the NIS is considering requesting an investigation by the prosecutors’ office regarding information it has found in the past weeks. The committee revealed that it had secured evidence suggesting that former NIS chief Won Se-hoon was directly involved in the spy agency’s alleged activities to manipulate public opinion in favor of conservatives.

Won served as NIS chief between 2009 and 2013. He is currently on trial on related charges.

According to the NIS reform committee, the spy agency operated the so-called “online comments brigade” to post online comments designed to aid conservatives under Won’s direction. Those posting comments were civilians hired by the NIS, and their number reached as high as 3,500. It has also been revealed that parts of NIS records from Won’s term have been deleted.

“The plan was to conduct an internal review, and to hand over (information to the prosecution) if illegal (elements) are revealed. Even mid-review, many illegalities have turned up,” Jung Hae-gu, the Sungkonghoe University professor heading the NIS reform committee, said in a recent television interview.

The committee’s activities have also caught the attention of the prosecutors on Won’s case. The NIS reportedly received an official request from the investigators for information regarding the NIS’ online campaign. 

Prosecutor-General Moon Moo-il. (Yonhap)

New Prosecutor-General Moon Moo-il also revealed that he had ordered the prosecutors’ office to prepare for a possible investigation.

“I ordered response measures to be drawn up yesterday,” Moon told reporters Tuesday, adding that the department that handled related issues in the past is likely to be working on related plans.

“(The prosecution) will respond quickly (when the NIS committee) files a complaint, requests an investigation or if information is relayed.”

The alleged wrongdoings of the NIS under the Lee Myung-bak administration have also sparked off another feud in the political arena.

Democratic Party Floor Leader Rep. Woo Won-shik has called for a wider investigation that involves Lee. He has also vehemently attacked Won, going as far as to compare him to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

Woo also said that Won was Lee’s closest aide and that it is implausible to think that Won acted without Lee’s knowledge.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party, for its part, denounces the activities of the NIS reform committee as political revenge. It will launch its own taskforce to monitor the committee’s activities.

“The reform of the NIS has led to developments that can only be seen as political revenge against the former administration,” Liberty Korea Party Floor Leader Rep. Chung Woo-taik said, adding that the reform committee could incapacitate the NIS.

“It is not right to forcibly uncover the faults and corruption of conservative administrations.”

By Choi He-suk (