Cyber unit posts biased, probe finds

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Cyber unit posts biased, probe finds

The Ministry of National Defense concluded yesterday that officials from its Cyber Warfare Command made more than 7,100 posts on the Internet in an online smear campaign against the opposition during the run-up to the 2012 presidential election.

Announcing the results of a months-long probe into the allegations, the ministry said that it had indicted 21 officials, including Yeon Jae-wook and Ok Do-kyung, former chiefs in the command who were involved in the politically biased posts.

According to the ministry, the investigation results showed that of 787,200 posts made by the unit, 0.9 percent were critical of or supported certain politicians or parties.

Baek Nak-jong, head of the Defense Ministry’s Central Investigation Command and chief investigator of the probe into the military’s psychological warfare unit, said in a briefing yesterday that a former director of the cyber warfare unit, surnamed Lee, who is known to be right-wing, “contributed to the distortion of security issues or the public’s negative viewpoint in regards to it.”

Under Lee’s direction, officials used smartphones, tablets and desktop computers to make politically skewed posts via social networking services, blogs and forums, and also retweeted similar messages.

Lee, one of the 21 officials indicted, further ordered the evidence to be destroyed and drafted falsified documents afterward.

Baek added that the subordinates who followed Lee’s orders “lacked awareness over the unlawfulness of the act and went beyond the normal range of operations, referring to some politicians and political parties [in their posts].”

These officials, the ministry said, violated Article 94 of the Military Criminal Act, which stipulates that officials have an obligation to remain politically neutral.

Yeon and Ok were charged for failure to take appropriate action when they were notified of the illegal operations, which led to a break in political neutrality, it added.

The ministry’s Cyber Warfare Command, launched in 2010 mainly to combat the cyber threat from North Korea, was accused last October of conducting an online smear campaign to aid President Park Geun-hye and tarnish the reputation of her challenger, opposition candidate Moon Jae-in.

The incident followed similar allegations against the National Intelligence Service (NIS), the country’s top spy agency.

The ministry added that Kim Kwan-jin, the current chief of the National Security Office who was the defense minister at the time, was unaware of the case.

It also concluded that the cyber command’s actions were not part of an organized effort to intervene in the presidential election, and was not connected to the military, the NIS or other government agencies or entities.

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








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