Seoul, Aug 4 (IANS) South Koreas spy agency has admitted it conducted an illicit campaign to influence the countrys 2012 presidential election, mobilising teams of experts to ensure that the conservative candidate, Park Geun-hye, beat her liberal rival.
An internal investigation by the powerful National Intelligence Service (NIS) also revealed attempts by its former Director and other senior officials to influence voters during parliamentary elections under Park’s predecessor, the hardline right-winger Lee Myung-bak, the Guardian newspaper reported.
Park, who narrowly beat the current President Moon Jae-in, to become the country’s first female President in the 2012 vote, is standing trial on charges of corruption and abuse of power and faces life in prison.
Moon, who was the target of a smear campaign by the NIS during his first failed run for the presidential Blue House in 2012, has vowed to reform the spy agency to prevent it from influencing future elections.
He has said intelligence officials should focus on foreign affairs, including countering the threat from North Korea, according to the daily.
The NIS’s in-house investigation found that its cyberwarfare unit formed as many as 30 “extra-departmental” teams comprising officials and internet-savvy citizens to upload posts in support of conservative politicians for two years in the run-up to the 2012 presidential vote.
A spokesman for Park claimed the NIS inquiry was politically motivated. “The NIS says it will dissociate itself from politics but it is meddling in politics again by starting this probe,” Kang Hyo-sang, of Park’s opposition Liberty Korea party, said in a statement.
According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, the report said that days before the 2012 election, NIS officials posted messages critical of Moon on social networking and news sites.
The NIS taskforce said similar attempts had been made to influence elections for the National Assembly in 2011 and 2012, during which it also put prominent opposition politicians under surveillance, Yonhap added.
The NIS’s new Director Suh Hoon vowed to end the agency’s involvement in domestic politics.
“We are dropping involvement in politics and strengthening our core intelligence capabilities by focusing on our traditional role in national security [and] handling operations regarding overseas affairs,” including North Korea and anti-terrorism, Huh told the South Korean Parliament’s intelligence committee in July, according to reports.