Ministry denies election allegations

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Ministry denies election allegations

The military’s Cyber Warfare Command is under fire following accusations that four officials from the Ministry of National Defense’s special cyber unit allegedly posted negative comments online about Democratic opposition candidate Moon Jae-in ahead of last year’s presidential election, raising concerns that the command was behind the posts.

The incident comes amid allegations that the National Intelligence Service conducted an online smear campaign against the opposition during the presidential race, and some Democratic Party lawmakers have raised the issue that the cases may be linked. The four officials, accused of posting political messages on blogs and Twitter, were summoned by the military’s prosecution for questioning last week.

They admitted to leaving political comments, but claimed to have acted on their own accord and not under orders from their superiors.

The Defense Ministry denied involvement in activities with election-meddling, emphasizing that military officials are expected to maintain political neutrality.

Kim Kwan-jin, minister of National Defense, launched an official investigation into the cyber unit on Oct. 15, and the initial results are expected to be announced by the Defense Ministry today.

“After a weeklong investigation, some of the relevant individual’s postings on blogs and Twitter were confirmed to have been actions that could [prove] misunderstanding… But contrary to the opposition parties’ allegations that this was a systematic action by the military, they were reported to the minister as being individual actions,” a defense source told the JoongAng Ilbo regarding the investigation.

However, Democratic Party Representative Jin Sung-joon said yesterday in an MBC radio interview that his party had obtained additional evidence regarding the postings by the cyber unit officials, which he said the party will release if the military’s investigation proves inadequate.

“What has been revealed is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Jin.

“The investigation will show that this is an organized incident,” he added, rather than individuals acting on their own to make political posts. “We have many materials to support this.”

He claimed the DP’s evidence shows that the Cyber Command agents also “re-tweeted comments posted by the NIS agents.”

The Saenuri Party, meanwhile, emphasized that the posts happened at an “individual level,” and were not part of an organized effort by the cyber unit.

“Who will believe that the DP lost the [presidential] elections because of these posts?” said Choi Kyung-hwan, the Saenuri Party floor leader.

DP Chairman Kim Han-gill at a Supreme Council meeting yesterday spoke of the Cyber Command controversy among other issues, saying, “I hope an even more extreme and systematic illegal intervention during the elections than previously thought by the people isn’t the case.”

The Defense Ministry launched the Cyber Warfare Command in 2010.



BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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