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Heat rising on ex-President Lee amid NIS allegations

Former President Lee Myung-bak is facing increasing heat over suspicions he was involved in the election interference scandal surrounding the military and national spy agency.


 
Former President Lee Myung-bak enters a vehicle at the Incheon Airport after arriving in the country from Bahrain on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Former President Lee Myung-bak enters a vehicle at the Incheon Airport after arriving in the country from Bahrain on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Rep. Kim Dong-cheol, floor leader of the minor opposition People’s Party, on Tuesday urged the prosecution to question Lee, accusing the former president of being the root of “accumulated ills.”

Since taking office in May, President Moon Jae-in has focused on addressing irregularities in government and society, which he has termed “accumulated evils.”

“The country’s top intelligence agencies were ruined in the hands of those in power during the two (Lee and Park Geun-hye) administrations,” Kim said at the party’s supreme council meeting.

“However, former President Lee and the Liberty Korea Party act as though they are not responsible, and resist (the government’s drive to) clean out accumulated ills.”

Won Sei-hoon, one of Lee’s closest associates and a former National Intelligence Service chief, is accused of ordering illegal online campaign to sway public opinion in favor of the conservatives in the run up to the 2012 presidential election.

It is alleged that Won ordered the NIS and the military’s cyberwarfare unit to incite anti-Moon sentiments online, and that Lee is likely to have been aware of his actions. In the 2012 election, Moon was defeated by former President Park.

Lee and the main opposition Liberty Korea Party have attacked the government’s reform plans, accusing the new administration of politically motivated revenge against the conservative bloc.

Liberty Korea Party Chairman Hong Joon-pyo on Wednesday accused the administration of disregarding the future of the country, saying developments surrounding the NIS were mob justice.

The NIS reform committee launched by Moon has reviewed a large number of the NIS’ past activities and has turned evidence over to the public prosecutors’ office. The committee’s findings sparked an expanding probe that has brought all three of the Park administration’s NIS chiefs under scrutiny. Allegations the former top NIS officials face include funneling the agency’s funds into Cheong Wa Dae illegally and hampering the investigation into Won’s alleged political meddling.

Saying the NIS has been branded a criminal organization by the new government, Hong accused past liberal governments of crippling the spy agency.

“Disbanding the NIS, and replacing it with a ‘North Korea cooperation bureau’ would fit their claims,” Hong said. “The past left-wing administrations operated the NIS as such for 10 years, and the right-wing governments changed that organization into one that monitors North Korea.”

Hong also accused the Moon administration of taking over the country “like a revolutionary army” that has no regard for the country’s future.

Lee, who returned from a trip to Bahrain on Wednesday, has spoken out against the reform drive. He has stated that he believes the Moon administration’s actions may have ulterior motives.

“I have started to have suspicions about whether they really are reforms, or an expression of pent-up emotions or political reprisals,” Lee said Sunday before departing for the tiny Arabian Gulf country.

He added the reform drive could divide public opinion and compromise the country’s national security.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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