Saenuri puts up defensive rebuttal of NIS campaign

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Saenuri puts up defensive rebuttal of NIS campaign


As the opposition continues to question the legitimacy of President Park Geung-hye’s victory in last year’s presidential election - saying it was swayed by dirty tricks during the campaign by the National Intelligence Service - the ruling Saenuri Party has started to argue back.

Representative Choi Kyung-hwan, floor leader of the Saenuri Party, said at a senior party meeting yesterday that opposition allegations that the NIS posted 55,000 Twitter messages supporting Park ahead of the election and denigrating her rivals were exaggerated. The ruling party admitted that the NIS got involved illegally in posting Twitter messages, but not as many as the opposition claimed.

“Prosecutors only confirmed 2,233 [out of the 55,000 tweets] as evidence of NIS interference in the presidential race,” Choi said. “Even among the 2,233 posts, only 6 percent of them were written by NIS agents and the remaining comments were retweeted messages [originally written by average people].”

“Calling these messages evidence of election intervention is an exaggeration,” Choi claimed.

The Saenuri Party said it analyzed every one of the 2,233 tweets to figure out what they said, who was the original writer and who tweeted or retweeted the comments. According to their analysis, 921 of the 2,233 comments were about national security issues, such as the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border with North Korea in the Yellow Sea, or opposition to the abolition of the National Security Law. The remaining 1,312 tweets were related to domestic politics, and most of them were retweets of news articles, not messages supporting Park, the ruling party candidate in last December’s presidential election, or denigrating the Democratic Party candidate Moon Jae-in or the independent candidate, Ahn Cheol-soo.

The party said it confirmed that several comments picked by the Democratic Party as proof of an online smear campaign were not originally written by the NIS, including messages that read, “Information on Candidate Park Geun-hye’s campaign bank account: Your donation will help her victory,” and “Moon Jae-in’s way of dealing with North Korean affairs is just like that of North Korean spies,” and “The disgusting face of Ahn Cheol-soo.”

But it acknowledged that NIS agents posted diatribes against the opposition candidates such as: “It is nonsense that Moon Jae-in is urging people to pay respects to Kim Jong-il while he is refusing to do the same at the tomb of Park Chung Hee,” and “Moon appears to expect all the votes of Ahn’s supporters will go to him,” and “Do you really think Park Chung Hee was a dictator? He just urged people to wake up early in the morning.”

Meanwhile, DP head Kim Han-gill claimed Tuesday that when he met President Park with Saenuri leader Hwang Woo-yea last month, Park was “furious” about allegations that the NIS illegally campaigned for her.

“At the trilateral summit in September, President Park Geun-hye was quite furious and told me, ‘Are you saying I became the president because of those online comments?’” Kim said in an interview with KBS Tuesday. “So I told her, ‘Well, no one can tell because we can’t measure it.’”

As to the Saenuri Party’s criticism that the DP is trying to overturn a legitimate election, Kim explained, “We don’t mean that we want another presidential election. We just want real reform of the NIS so that that kind of thing will never happen again.”

The Blue House said it was not true that the president was angry in the way Kim described.

“It is a total fiction,” a Blue House official told reporters yesterday. “It is true that she said something like that, but she was not furious.”

Moon, the defeated DP candidate, released a statement on the NIS case yesterday, saying last year’s election was, in retrospect, “unfair.”

“President Park should take grave responsibility for the crisis of democracy we face today and the unfairness of the presidential election last year,” Moon said in the statement. “She should also stop the unjust pressure on the prosecution and its probe [into the NIS case] and let them lay bare the truth.”


BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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