NIS admits its agents posted negative comments

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NIS admits its agents posted negative comments

The chief of the National Intelligence Service yesterday acknowledged that about 20,000 negative Twitter messages targeting the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate Moon Jae-in in last year’s election were posted by NIS agents. He later backtracked, saying the figure was nearly 2,300.

Democratic Party Representative Jung Chung-rae - who took part in a closed-door parliamentary audit into the main spy agency at its headquarters yesterday in southern Seoul - confirmed the NIS’s acknowledgement in a press briefing that followed.

“Of 55,000 Twitter messages discovered by the prosecution to have been posted by the NIS [in an alleged smear campaign against the opposition candidate], NIS chief Nam Jae-joon has acknowledged that 2,300 comments on Twitter were posted by NIS agents,” he said.

Jung added that the NIS has confirmed to lawmakers that it will send seven agents to the prosecution next week to be questioned about their role in the campaign.

Prosecutors last month revealed that former NIS chief Won Sei-hoon allegedly ordered his “psychological warfare team” to wage a campaign against Moon via Twitter, posting a total of 55,689 comments ahead of the 2012 presidential vote.

The DP’s recent offensive against the NIS came amid an additional revelation that the spy agency’s online campaign against Moon was not just limited to comments on Web portal sites but also extended to Twitter.

In response to the spy agency’s involvement in election proceedings, NIS chief Nam Jae-joon was quoted by Jung as saying that it was a “personal matter of former agency head Won Sei-hoon,” rather than problems related to the NIS itself.

“Authority over human resources at the NIS has been too exclusive. And Won [using his executive authority] ran the organization according to his personal interests [which led to the agency’s politicking last year],” Nam was quoted by the lawmaker as saying. “I am not interested in intervening in domestic politics.”

The former NIS chief has also been detained on a separate indictment of taking bribes during his time at the spy agency and is now standing trial for violating the national election law.

The 69-year-old issued an apology over the controversy surrounding the agency’s involvement in the election. “Putting aside facts over the NIS’s online smear campaign, I am deeply apologetic over the matter,” Nam said. “A need to reform the NIS has arisen because of the alleged campaign.”

In response to the DP’s demand that the NIS dismantle its department that oversees domestic affairs and transfer operations to the prosecution and police, Nam stated his objections.

Cho Won-jin, a Saenuri lawmaker who participated in the audit, quoted Nam as saying that transferring operational authority is “not feasible because there are many infiltrations by the North to the South through a third country,” which makes an investigation a challenging task.

Nam reportedly told lawmakers at the audit that the North runs seven cyberhacking groups made up of 1,700 members under Pyongyang’s National Defense Commission and Workers’ Party, in charge of initiating cyberattacks.


BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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