NIS raids UPP houses, arts office

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NIS raids UPP houses, arts office

The national spy agency yesterday raided homes and an office linked to three members of the Unified Progressive Party on suspicions that they violated the National Security Law.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) carried out the raids at the office of Chool, a liberal performing arts group in Mapo District, central Seoul, at 6 a.m. yesterday, confiscating books and documents related to North Korea.The spy agency also searched the homes of Jeon Sik-reol, head of the arts group, and two other members, identified as Kim and Koo, all of whom are UPP members.

The NIS took Jeon into custody and questioned him at the agency’s headquarters following the raid.

The spy agency suspects that the three members had been contacted by operatives of Office 225 of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang. Office 225 is tasked with overseeing sleeper agents operating in the South.

Jeon is also a performing arts director at the civic group Korea Alliance for Progressive Movements (KAPM), which lashed out at the raids.

The group called the raid “a politically motivated attempt” by the NIS to distract public attention from the scandal over its alleged interference in last year’s presidential election.

“The NIS is again using the pro-Pyongyang card to manipulate the public and divert criticisms of its meddling in the election last year,” a KAPM official told the Korea JoongAng Daily yesterday.

The NIS is being investigated for allegedly posting more than 1.2 million messages on Twitter in the run-up to the presidential election last year to sway public sentiment in favor of the candidacy of Park Geun-hye of the Saenuri Party.

The group added that all the cultural activities conducted by Jeon and his group were sanctioned by the Ministry of Unification.

The raids into the alleged pro-Pyongyang sympathizers came a day after President Park made a strongly worded warning toward those who “seek to cause division” in South Korean society.

At a meeting with senior secretaries at the Blue House on Monday, Park said the government “will no longer accept or overlook” events that “serve to cause confusion and division.”

The raids also came amid an ongoing trial against jailed Representative Lee Seok-ki, of the beleaguered UPP, who is indicted on charges that he attempted to overthrow the government in favor of North Korea.

The Park administration also filed a petition earlier this month to the Constitutional Court to dissolve Lee’s leftist minority party.

The petition was the first time the South Korean government requested the Constitutional Court to disband a political party rather than let the voters decide its fate.

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

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