Ex-police chief detained for cyber propaganda

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Ex-police chief detained for cyber propaganda

Former National Police Agency Commissioner General Cho Hyun-oh was detained by police early Friday morning for allegedly directing a massive cyberoperation to rally support for the Lee Myung-bak administration in the early 2010s.

Cho, 63, who was police chief from 2010 to 2012, is accused of ordering his subordinates to post over 33,000 comments on a number of websites as part of a secret online operation that involved the use of fake IDs and foreign IP addresses to mask the activities.

A recent police probe found that around 1,500 police officers had been mobilized to write comments about sensitive political issues that took place during the Lee Myung-bak government, such as the sinking of the Cheonan warship and a major strike by workers laid off at Hanjin Heavy Industries - all with a pro-government bias.

In a review hearing at the Seoul Central District Court on Thursday over an arrest warrant issued by the police, Cho partially admitted to his involvement in the online rigging, but claimed his actions had been justified since he had merely ordered an “active response” to false claims made on the internet against the police.

He maintained claims he made during earlier police questionings that the operation did not have a political purpose, and that there was no secrecy to the activities since he had given his orders through official channels.

The court, however, found criminal charges against Cho to be evident and ordered his immediate detention early Friday morning based on the possibility of him tampering with evidence.

Since his appointment to the post by former President Lee Myung-bak in 2010, Cho has caused many controversies and was the target of attacks by opposition parties for divisive comments he made about the suicide of former President Roh Moo-hyun.

As police chief however, he was widely credited with doing away with violence within the auxiliary police force, a long-standing problem within the organization.

His arrest and detention by an agency he once led is just one part of a campaign to expose power abuse during the Lee administration. His former boss was sentenced to 15 years in prison for corruption by a Seoul court on Friday, and may, too, be mired in the opinion rigging scandal pending further investigation.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]
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