Police chief admits fiddling in NIS election probe

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Police chief admits fiddling in NIS election probe

Kim Yong-pan, former chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, allegedly acknowledged Tuesday that he meddled in the investigation into allegations that the National Intelligence Service conducted an online smear campaign against the opposition candidate for president in the run-up to last year’s Dec. 19 presidential election.

A special investigation team at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said the former police chief admitted during questioning he had ordered his subordinates at the Suseo Police Precinct, the main investigators of the case at the time, to go easy on the investigation against the NIS.

The former Seoul police chief reportedly told prosecutors he gave an order to reduce the number of keywords requested by the Suseo Precinct to be analyzed to find out if a 29-year-old NIS agent conducted an online campaign to sway public opinion ahead of the presidential election by writing Internet postings in favor of the ruling Saenuri Party.

The Suseo precinct requested Kim’s postings to be analyzed using 78 keywords. But only four keywords were used.

The 55-year-old former policeman reportedly confessed after prosecutors confronted him “with irrefutable evidence” that he gave the instructions through a chain of command when the presidential election was less than a week away. Kim allegedly told prosecutors he wished to contain the fallout from the investigation in the election and did not really know how a digital-data analysis should be conducted.

Kim held a press briefing at 11 p.m on Dec. 16, three days ahead of the election, to disclose the interim probe results, clearing the NIS official of the charge of smearing the opposition candidate.

In April, Kwon Eun-hee, who was a senior detective with the Suseo Police Precinct, revealed that pressure was felt by the Suseo Police Precinct from above while she was leading the investigation.

Kwon said that after the main opposition Democratic Party submitted a complaint to the Suseo precinct, the Seoul police agency constantly intervened in the probe.

The prosecutors said they would charge the former chief with abuse of authority and obstruction of public duty.

By Kang Jin-kyu [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]
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