PSPD in English Civil-Political 2013-12-11   3287

[Report] Illegal Intervention by State Agencies in the Presidential Election

Illegal Intervention by State Agencies in the Presidential Election

Republic of Korea 


I. Background


On 19 December 2012, the 18th presidential election was held in the Republic of Korea. As a result, current President Park Geun-hye of the Saenuri Party was elected with 51.6% of the vote. Unfortunately, according to recent investigations and media reports, a number of state agencies extensively and illegally intervened during this last presidential election. It was revealed that several state agencies including the National Intelligence Service(NIS), Cyber Command, Ministry of Security and Public Administration, Ministry of National Defense, Ministry of Unification, and Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs as well as government funded organisations such as Korea Veterans Association intentionally created negative public opinion on the Internet by posting several articles and retweeting comments that slandered opposition party candidates during the election. Even after the illegal intervention in the elections by the state agencies was revealed, the persecutors are not conducting a transparent and independent investigation on this case and political pressures are imposed by the current government in a way to interrupt any investigation.  


II. Illegal interventions by the NIS 

– On 11 December 2012, the opposition party election camp revealed that a staff member from the NIS posted articles on the Internet supporting and/or slandering certain election candidates. 

– On 16 December 2012, three days before the presidential election, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency announced its investigation results that the suspect was cleared from any charges. As a result, the opposition party candidate who revealed the illegal intervention in the election by the NIS was criticised by the ruling party and media for being irresponsible. 

– After the election results were announced on 20 December 2012, it was verified by additional reports and investigations by the prosecutor’s office that the abovementioned NIS staff member actually intervened in the presidential election. In addition to the NIS operation team, it was found that various state agencies including Cyber Command under the Ministry of National Defence, Ministry of Security and Public Administration systematically and illegally intervened in the election. 

– Due to these illegal interventions, a former director of the NIS, Mr. Won Sae-hun and  other staff members, and Commissioner of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency have been indicted. On June 2013, the prosecutor’s office indicted Mr. Won Sae-hun, a former director of the NIS under the charge of violating the Election Act and the National Intelligence Service Act. The Commissioner of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency who concealed the investigation result was also indicted under the charge of violating the Election Act and malfeasance. 

– Later, the prosecutors’ office added extra charges against the NIS and made additional indictments. 

– On 6 December 2013, prosecutors’ office confirmed that 22 million messages had been posted or retweeted from 2,653 Twitter accounts belonging to members of the NIS’ psychological operations division during the last presidential election. However, prosecutors included only 1.21 million of them in their indictment, citing personal constraints and trial schedule issues. This means the other 20.8 million messages have yet to be analysed. NIS’ intervention in the election clearly violates Article 9 of the National Intelligence Service Act, which prohibits its involvement in politics.


III. Illegal interventions by the Cyber Command 

– It was found that soldiers and civil employees of the Cyber Command which is directly under the Minister of National Defense posted around 1,500 articles against opposition party candidates during the presidential election. However, the internal investigation concluded that it was “four people’s individual actions and not relevant to the Ministry”, which later found that there were at least 15 soldiers/civil officers belonged to the Cyber Command. 

– Current Minister of National Defense was in charge of the Cyber Command at the time of illegal intervention. Since military prosecutor and military police are both under the command of the Minister of National Defense, internal investigations cannot be fully transparent. 


IV. Illegal interventions by other state agencies 

– The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs conducted national security trainings using a textbook which states “border will collapse if progressive government becomes a ruling party”. In total, 227,525 people went through this training during 2012 Presidential Election campaign period.

– The Ministry of Security and Public Administration distributed national security training manuals before the Presidential Election which mentioned that the dictatorship by former President Park Jung-hee (father of current President Park Geun-hye) was a foundation of Korea’s democratization. 


V. Non-Transparent Investigation Process

Civil society organisations of the Republic of Korea have continued to hold a series of demonstrations calling for a transparent investigation and a fact finding mission on this matter, but the Presidential Office, who is responsible for this matter, has ignored this call from the people. Instead of transparent investigations, President Park Geun-hye, an actual beneficiary of this election intervention, claimed that she was not elected because of ‘some’ comments made on the Internet. Mr. Kim Gwan-jin, Minister of National Defense, as well as Mr. Nam Jae-joon, the new director of the NIS, avoid this responsibility by defining posting online articles related to the election were “some staff members’ independent actions” or “justifiable activities against commies”. Below cases are detailed incidents regarding non-transparent investigation processes. 


– Newly appointed Minster of Justice by Park Geun-hye administration, Mr. Hwang Kyo-an, requested the prosecutor who was investigating the case to indict Mr. Won Sae-hun under the charge of violating the National Intelligence Service Act only and not the Election Act. 

– Newly appointed director of the NIS by Park Geun-hye administration, Mr. Nam Jae-joon, took disciplinary action against the NIS staff member who reported on NIS’ illegal intervention in the elections, and denied its relation to this illegal activity. Mr. Nam also ordered NIS staffs who were taken to prosecutors’ office not to cooperate with the investigators. 

– Mr. Chae Dong-wook, a former Public Prosecutor General who actively investigated the NIS’ illegal intervention in the election, resigned on September 2013 because his private life was maliciously disclosed to public. Regardless rumors related to his private life are based on facts or not, it was a critical scandal which forced him to step down from the position. On September 2013, the President Office argued that they were not responsible for Mr. Chae’s scandal but later, it was revealed that an executive officer of the Secretary for Administration and the director of the Ministry of Security and Public Administration illegally collected personal information of Mr. Chae which later covered by media. The Presidential Office denied its relation with these two staff members who illegally collected the information by saying that these were two individuals’ independent actions and not related to the President. 

– After the manager of the special investigation team at the Public Prosecutors’ Office testified at the National Assembly about outside pressure on the investigations, he had to go through a disciplinary committee.  


Currently, the investigations on the case are ongoing while leaving high doubts on its transparency. Civil society organizations including People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) and religious leaders are urging the government to establish an independent special prosecutor team to conduct a transparent investigation. Currently, civil society organizations and the opposition party are calling for a legislation to appoint an independent special prosecutor team by a National Assembly resolution, but the ruling party and the President refuse to accept this suggestion. According to various surveys, 51~66% of South Korean people agree on the establishment of an independent special prosecutor team. 


On the 8th of December 2013, MP Jang Hana of the opposition party publicly declared that “the last Presidential Election was a fraudulent election and therefore, the President should step down and we need to have a by-election”. Only because she expressed her political opinion, the ruling party who occupy the majority of the seats moved a motion expelling her from the National Assembly. The motion is currently pending at the National Assembly. 


IV. Recommendations to the Government of the Republic of Korea

• Conduct independent and transparent investigation on the illegal intervention of state agencies in the election by appointing an independent special prosecutor team;

• Take legal action against  those who are responsible for illegally intervened in the presidential election and are currently imposing illegitimate pressure on the investigation process;

• Protect whistleblowers who revealed information related to the illegal intervention by the state agencies in the presidential election;

• Guarantee freedom of opinion and expression of all people including those who argue that the last election was a fraudulent election and there should be no repressive measures taken against them;

• Establish measures to prevent any recurrence of illegal interventions, especially on the Internet, by state agencies in any election;

• The National Intelligence Service, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of National Defense should fully cooperate in a transparent investigation.

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