End the controversy, period

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End the controversy, period

The National Intelligence Service’s staff turns out to have engaged in a smear campaign on the Internet by attacking the opposition parties’ presidential candidates during last year’s election, in violation of a ban on the NIS engaging in political activities. The most urgent thing right now is for the NIS to tell the full truth as soon as possible.

Lawmakers from the opposition party yesterday released details about the additional charges the prosecution had in its earlier indictment against the spy agency. According to the shocking revelation, some agents at the NIS’s psychological warfare division tweeted or re-tweeted slanderous comments against Democratic Party candidate Moon Jae-in - “Moon worships North Korean leader Kim Jong-il” and “He acts like a North Korean spy, way beyond the level of pro-North followers,” to name just two instances. At the same time, the NIS posted messages friendly to the ruling party candidate Park Geun-hye, such as “Park is devoted to the security and prosperity of our country” and “You can support her through this bank account.”

It is undeniable that the NIS agents spread online slanders or endorsements aimed at particular candidates before the presidential election. We are dumbfounded that they even used an automatic tweeting program in the process. Those charges go far beyond the prosecution’s previous accusations against former NIS chief Won Sei-hoon. If the cyberpropaganda took place systematically, that’s a serious threat to our hard-won democracy.

In yesterday’s trial against Won, the prosecution said it will accommodate a request from a special investigation team to modify an earlier indictment. But the defense lawyer argued the new charges were inconsistent with earlier ones and that the prosecution violated the law when arresting the NIS agents. The court must swiftly make a judgment on whether to accept a modification of the earlier indictment based on the law and facts. Lawmakers also must find out the truth behind the scandal rather than approach it from a partisan point of view.

Furthermore, the prosecution must explain why Yun Seok-yeol, chief of the special investigation team, was abruptly excluded from the team. In the National Assembly’s annual audit of the prosecution yesterday, Yun and his superior Cho Young-gon, chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, confronted each other over the arrest of the NIS agents and argued over potential outside pressure. The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office must end the controversy through a thorough probe.

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