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[Newsmaker] Former NIS chief accused of corruption

Won Sei-hoon, a former spy chief and long-time aide to former President Lee Myung-bak, is likely to face charges for personal corruption as well as his role in intelligence agents’ illegal intervention in politics.

Prosecutors are investigating allegations that he received bribes from a private construction firm while he served as chief of the National Intelligence Service.

During a raid of the agency, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office seized documents reportedly containing a list of gifts, including luxury bags, clothes and gold worth tens of millions of won, given to Won. 
Won Sei-hoon
Won Sei-hoon

The prosecution is not ruling out the possibility that the firm tried to lobby him to win public construction projects.

He headed the National Intelligence Service, the nation’s spy agency, from 2009 until he stepped down this March.

He is also under investigation in connection with the agency’s online smear campaigns in which hundreds of agents working for the NIS uploaded more than 10,000 posts and comments online before the December presidential election.

The agents allegedly vilified opposition politicians such as former presidential runner-up Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party and posted comments in favor of the former administration and now President Park Geun-hye.

The NIS Act bans any political intervention by spy agents.

Prosecutors have delayed their plan to seek an arrest warrant for him due to their differences with Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn. Hwang is reportedly opposed to charging Won for violating the Election Law.

Won formerly served as first vice-mayor for Seoul when Lee was its mayor. He played a leading role in Lee’s major projects such as the restoration of Cheonggyecheon Stream in central Seoul, the redevelopment of run-down residential areas, and the restructuring of the public transportation system.

Won also served as minister of public administration and security in the Lee administration.

By Kim Young-won (wone0102@heraldcorp.com)
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