Published : 2013-02-07 20:44
Updated : 2013-02-07 20:44
Shortly before the Dec. 19 presidential election, the main opposition Democratic United Party claimed that the National Intelligence Service had been running a clandestine campaign against its candidate, Moon Jae-in. The allegation was based on suspicions that an intelligence official had been slandering Moon on the Internet.
In denying the charges, the spy agency denounced the opposition party for engaging in what it called “malicious propaganda.” It claimed it was mistakenly accused of breaching the law banning the spy agency from engaging in activity either in support of, or in opposition against, any particular political party or political figure.
When the party started sparring with the National Intelligence Service over the case, its members were surrounding an office in downtown Seoul in which a suspected intelligence official was holed up. When they came to her rescue, police denied she had made any online comment on the presidential election.
But the developments that have since followed are pointing to an increasingly strong possibility of the intelligence official having slandered the opposition candidate. Among the developments are changing remarks by the police on the role of the intelligence official, who reportedly used multiple identities when writing her online comments.
The police, who first categorically denied that the intelligence official had made any comment on the presidential election, later acknowledged that she had made some, though they claimed they were private in nature. Finally, they admitted she had posted 120 political and social comments ahead of the election.
According to a news report, their investigation has also confirmed she used the ID of a third person, who has yet to be identified, on two Internet sites and that the third person used five of the IDs that the intelligence official had held in her possession. The report said the third person, defying the summons from the police, went into hiding.
The report, which quoted the National Intelligence Service as saying that the third person was a citizen wishing to help catch North Korean spies operating in South Korea, said the person had been more active online than the intelligence official, adding that he had used at least 30 fake IDs in making online comments.
Now a more plausible question to ask is whether writing pro-government and anti-Moon online comments was limited to the intelligence official or the spy agency orchestrated a campaign against the opposition candidate.
The spy agency claims that the intelligence official was engaged in legitimate “psychological warfare” against North Korea. It says it was one of her tasks to watch what responses her comments elicited from the North Korean communists, their agents operating in the South and South Koreans sympathizing with the North Korean cause.
Given circumstantial evidence, the spy agency is not making a convincing case when it says that the intelligence official was engaged in psychological warfare. Contrary to its claim, she reportedly made comments on issues of little interest to North Korea, such as President Lee Myung-bak’s four-river project and his overseas tours.
Moreover, the official reportedly was most active during the four months leading up to the presidential election. It is an enigma why she allegedly had to write so many comments in support of the ruling Saenuri Party and the Lee administration and so many others critical of the opposition party during this crucial period.
Few would expect the spy agency to voluntarily offer answers to all these questions about these actions, be they psychological warfare or illegal political activities. Still, it went too far when it said its intelligence official would press charges against the Internet site managers for providing a police investigator with her Internet ID, the police officer for sharing the information with a journalist and the journalist for printing it in his newspaper.
Though it claimed that the intelligence officer was bringing criminal charges against them, the spy agency was suspected of merely using her name when the agency itself was actually threatening to do so. If not, why did it bother to send a handout to news outlets?
But the spy agency will do well to keep a low profile, given that its official is undergoing a criminal investigation into a claim that she breached the law banning her from praising or slandering a particular political party or a political figure. Moreover, police investigators will undoubtedly look into the possibility that she was acting under orders.