Yoon Seok-yeol, a senior prosecutor who was leading an investigation into the spy agency’s alleged election interference last year, is in the political limelight after being ousted from the special probe team last week.
His dismissal has sparked a backlash from the main opposition Democratic Party, which claims the government attempted to meddle in the high-profile probe.
The probe team has looked into the allegations that former National Intelligence Service chief Won Sei-hoon directed his operatives to post political comments online, which could tip the scale in favor of then-candidate Park Geun-hye in the December election.
Yoon was dismissed last week from the team after he was reportedly criticized by the higher authorities for ignoring some due investigation procedures such as notifying them in advance of arrests and where to search.
The DP was quick to link the case to the recent resignation of former prosecutor general Chae Dong-wook. Chae stepped down amid a lovechild scandal last month.
The party argues the government pressured Chae to leave office after his probe team indicted the NIS chief in June on charges of violating the election law ― an act that could undermine public trust over the result of the presidential vote.
“After removing the prosecutor-general, (the government) has now moved out the head of the investigation team,” DP leader Kim Han-gil said during a public speech calling for NIS reform at Seoul Plaza.
“An order to dismiss Yoon impeded the ongoing probe into the NIS-related allegations and appeared aimed at taming the prosecution. Cheong Wa Dae and NIS should reinstate him.”
The ruling Saenuri Party said Yoon’s dismissal was the right move as he should be held responsible for not complying with necessary investigation procedures.
“It is a clearly wrong act to ignore investigation procedures. The prosecution should clarify who should take responsibility for that and address public suspicions over the case,” Saenuri spokesperson Min Hyun-joo told reporters.
Since entering the prosecution in 1996, Yoon, 53, has been involved in a series of high-profile investigations including on corruption scandals involving some of the nation’s top conglomerates.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)