Warrant sought for MB’s spy chief

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Warrant sought for MB’s spy chief

Prosecutors decided to request an arrest warrant for a former chief of the national spy agency suspected of staging illegal campaigns for then-ruling party candidate Park Geun-hye ahead of last year’s presidential election.

Officials at the Seoul District Prosecutors’ Office told reporters yesterday that they will soon seek an arrest warrant for Won Sei-hoon, former head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) under the Lee Myung-bak administration, on suspicion of attempting to sway public opinion in favor of Park and several state-run projects in 2012 ahead of the election.

They concluded that Won had convened weekly meetings with high-ranking NIS officials and ordered them to rally public support for the “four-rivers restoration project,” a major construction plan by the Lee administration, and the Korea-U.S. free trade pact ahead of the December race.

Won also allegedly ordered them to harm the reputation of the main opposition party’s candidate Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party (now Democratic Party), so that Park could win the race.

He also allegedly delivered instructions to his NIS workers regarding how to combat the so-called “pro-Pyongyang people,” who expressed support for the regime online.

His directions, announced at the high-level meetings, were delivered from senior officials to working-level officials, prosecutors said.

Under his guidance, NIS officials allegedly posted at least 10,000 comments on some major portal Web sites in the country and clicked “Like” on some political news articles in favor of the government and the ruling party.

In order to evade public suspicion, the spy agents used various IDs when commenting online.

Prosecutors say that the job was handled by the “psychological information operation bureau” at the NIS, which is allegedly in charge of propagating a pro-government or anti-Pyongyang stance.

The workers in the bureau also criticized Lee Jung-hee, then-presidential candidate of the splinter opposition Unified Progressive Party, who made some controversial remarks in favor of the North Korean regime and publicly denounced Park as “a daughter of a dictator.”

Prosecutors made a tentative conclusion that actions were directed by Won. They concluded Won violated the National Intelligence Service Act, which bans spy agents from being involved in domestic politics, and the Public Official Election Act.

They also plan to arrest Kim Yong-pan, former chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, who is suspected of hushing up the case by pressing a local police precinct to destroy evidence regarding the scandal.

Meanwhile, the Seoul Central District Court yesterday held a hearing for an arrest warrant against Hwang Bo-yeon, head of a bankrupted construction company called Hwangbo Construction. Hwang was suspected of giving bribes to Won, such as gold or luxury items, to win the bid of several major construction projects run by state-run corporations.

In fact, during the Lee administration, the company’s annual revenue skyrocketed from 6.3 billion won ($5.6 million) in 2008 to 38.8 billion won in 2011, raising suspicion that Won, who was a close confidant of former President Lee, allegedly exerted his influence for Hwang’s company.

Prosecutors recently raided the office of Hwangbo Construction in central Seoul and obtained a list of items that Hwang allegedly gave to Won as bribes.

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]
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