Let the legislature oversee itThe Ministry of National Defense has concluded that officers and soldiers at the Cyber Warfare Command were broadly involved in political activities to help the ruling party during the 2012 presidential election. The ministry said it indicted 21 officers, including Yeon Jae-wook and Ok Do-kyung, former chiefs in the Cyber Warfare Command, for breaking the defense law, which bans officers and soldiers from engaging in political activities.
The extent of their involvement is shocking. According to the findings, soldiers in the command posted more than 7,100 entries on mobile social networking platforms and on blogs and websites, which were critical or supportive of certain candidates or political parties before and after the polls.
Their political posts, though not eligible for punitive action, reached more than 50,000 people. The Cyber Warfare Command was created in 2010 as part of the Ministry of National Defense mainly to combat the increasing cyberthreat from North Korea. In 2012, however, they were mostly preoccupied with conducting online smear campaigns. Some of them even wrote freely on online platforms to criticize or support certain political parties and politicians according to their own political inclinations.
The military officers, whose role was defending the nation from North Korea in cyberspace, instead used its online security access for political purposes. The military has violated its code on political neutrality and used its officers and soldiers as campaign workers for a particular political party.
The military, which has the utmost priority to defend democracy, has broken the law, a bold move that could undermine the very foundation of Korean democracy. The Cyber Warfare Command must focus on North Korea’s cyberattacks, not domestic politics.
The military investigation headquarters said that the smear campaign had not been organized or ordered from higher hierarchy or other state institutions. It added that then-Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, incumbent head of the National Security Office at the Blue House, had not been briefed on the case. The ministry must take responsibility for the results of the investigation.
Activities of the Cyber Warfare Command have been under review by the Joint Chiefs of Staff since March. But military surveillance is not enough to ensure that the command is no longer used for political purposes. A better idea would be letting the National Assembly or other independent organizations watch and survey the psychological warfare operations of the command. This is how the military can regain its credibility.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 20, Page 34