[Issue] February 2014 / Vol.2 No.4 – In focus: Politics

One-Year Later: 
Truth Still Unknown about Illegal NIS Involvement in Election
Jin-kyung Huh
Officer, Political Reform & Civil legislation Team
11th December 2013. That was the one-year anniversary of the day when the National Intelligence Service (NIS) was involved in illegal meddling in the presidential election when posts were discovered on Twitter and other social networking services (SNS). December 19th, one week later, was the one-year anniversary of the presidential election. This case, which conspicuously coincided with the presidential election, has stained the first year of President Park’s five year term, and the case is still unresolved. 
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Direct presidential election, the current form of democracy in Korea, was established through the democratic uprising that occurred in June of 1987. Until that moment, Korea had gone through nearly 30 years of military dictatorship and many people had shed their blood to protest the military regime. The former president Park Chunghee, who was the father of the current president, ruled the country with hard dictatorship from 1963 to 1979.  Since 1987, over the past five presidential elections, people believed that procedural democracy had stabilized in South Korea. In 2013, however, NIS’s shocking involvement in the presidential election betrayed the peoples’ trust, and showed that Korean politics had not moved on from the past, when the spy agency monitored and suppressed the people. Everyone, regardless of their political preference, longed for rigorous investigation and appropriate punishment.


11, 2012 

   There was a report to police, someone assumed to be a government officer was posting tweets and SNS postings that were slanderous of the opposition party candidate, Mr. Moon, a violation of election law. It was later discovered that an employee of NIS (Ms. Kim) was the one of employees who was responsible for the tweets and SNS postings. 

 Dec. 16, 2012

 During the last televised debate between the candidates, Park Geunhye criticized Mr. Moon for abusing Ms. Kim’s human rights. One hour after the debate, police reported that Ms. Kim’s computer had no trace of illegal actions.

 Dec. 19, 2012

 The election day, candidate Park won the election with 51.55%, and candidate Moon lost with 48.02% of the vote.

 April 18, 2013

 The police reported that NIS engaged in political actions online but that it did not constitute involvement in the election.

 April 19, 2013

 Chief of Police, Gwon, became the whistle blower by announcing the fact during the police investigation there was political pressure from authorities higher up in government.

 June 14, 2013

 The prosecution announced that NIS violated the Public Official Election Act.


6, 2013

 Chosun newspaper, the current ruling party favored media, reported an existence of an extramarital son of the Prosecutor General.

 Sep. 30, 2013

 The Prosecutor General resigned due to ethical issues pertaining to the extramarital son.

 October 2013

 During the parliamentary inspection of the administration, it was revealed that the Korean Army’s Cyber HQ was involved in the tweet and other online actions against the opposition party candidate.

While the involvement was shocking enough, the investigation process was outrageous and disappointing to everyone. The police who took the case initially announced, only three days after the case was received, that NIS did not slander a specific candidate, Mr. Moon. As revealed later, this was not the truth. The police were in secret contact with NIS officers during the investigation to conceal NIS’s illegal online actions and they manipulated the investigation to mislead the public. The commissioner general also gave orders to interfere with several police officers involved in the investigation. Eventually, the case was handed over to the prosecution. However, the Minister of Justice also interfered with and applied pressure to the investigative team that was trying to stick to the principle of the Government Officer’s Election Law, while also driving out the Prosecutor General who was trying to fight against the pressure of the authorities who were friendly to President Park. President Park, who has authority to issue an order regarding the illegal acts committed by the NIS, and who has the duty to resolve the chaotic political situation surrounding the case, has kept her silence and shown no concern for the incident. However, the fact that the senior secretary of the President for Civil Affairs was involved in the Prosecutor General’s resignation, along with the fact that the Minister of Justice and the NIS Director have been allowed to remain in office actually show what President Park’s real intention is. President Park has been stalling in hopes that the case would just fade away and be forgotten as this case damages the government’s legitimacy, rather than uncovering the truth and reforming the NIS.

CCEJ has continuously called for investigation into the truth and appropriate punishment since March 2013, when NIS’s illegal meddling in the election was revealed. While the police and the prosecution were struggling with external pressure and the President was standing by, the inspection of the government offices conducted by the National Assembly in June ended without significant results. Under this situation, the only solution to uncovering the whole truth is to hand this case over to a comprehensive independent council and to target all governmental agencies related to the case, including those under former President Lee Myung Bak. A public opinion poll conducted in November 2013, showed that 57% supported the introduction of the independent council as a means to resolving the case. However, the President and her ruling party have totally ignored the voices of the opposition party and the people and made clear that an independent council is unacceptable.  
The President and her ruling party have instead raised their voices again about a so-called “color theory” just like old times of her father’s, accusing civic groups, religious entities and media of following North Korea or protesting against the government. CCEJ, in association with seven other civil society organizations have asked President Park’s government to stop this North Korean rhetoric and self-righteous posturing. Together, these groups have staged protests with citizens in an effort to recover democracy on the one-year anniversary of the Dec. 19th presidential election.  
After a long discussion between the ruling and the opposition parties last December, they agreed to form a special committee to reform the NIS and passed seven reform bills to the Legislative and Judiciary Committee. The agreed reform bills include measures to strengthen the National Assembly’s control over the NIS and intensify punishment against those convicted of political intervention. However, those measures can only improve management of the NIS, and do not achieve the public’s expectation of a thorough reform that prevents political intervention. From January of this year, until the end of February, the special committee will be taking a second step, and critical issues such as the scope of collecting domestic intelligence and self-investigative power will be addressed. CCEJ will exercise its influence to put pressure on the committee by all means, including monitoring the committee’s activities, presenting written opinion about the results, issuing statements and protesting, so that they can produce practical reform plans. 
Investigation into the truth of NIS’s involvement in the presidential election is closely connected to the fundamental reform of the NIS, including the distribution of NIS’s exclusive right and scope in both domestic and foreign intelligence, the abolition of its investigative rights in relation to North Korean issues, and actual bans on political intervention. It is unfortunate to still have this case unresolved and ongoing into the New Year. It is also President Park’s misfortune that her first year in office was so damaging to democracy in Korea. For 2014, two of CCEJ’s crucial goals are to achieve reform and ascertainment of the truth in these matters.