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Illegal Wiretapping of Key Figures Revealed

Posted July. 22, 2005 06:11,   


It was revealed that the National Security Planning Agency (NSPA), the predecessor of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), illegally bugged dinner conversations of core political, economic and media figures through running a secret wiretapping team in 1997 during the Kim Young-sam administration. The news is creating a stir.

In response, the NIS launched a fact-finding investigation into suspicions of illegal wiretapping on July 21.

It was reported that “the X-file tape” obtained by the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) holds dialogues over campaign funds for the presidential election in 1997 between the then chief of staff of the chairman of the Samsung Group Lee Hak-soo (currently head of the restructuring office of Samsung Group), and then chairman of JoongAng Ilbo, Hong Seok-hyun (currently the South Korean ambassador to the U.S.), which were illegally bugged by the NSPA ahead of the presidential election in 1997.

Given the possible controversy the tape may cause, it is likely that if the tape is disclosed, it might be unavoidable to get to the bottom of the campaign fund issue for the 1997 presidential election as well as lead to a call from the public that related figures, including political, economical, governmental and media figures, should take responsibility for it.

MBC did not reveal from where it procured this tape, but MBC reportedly obtained the tape from a former NSPA official who was on the secret wiretapping team.

Those tapes illegally bugged by the NSPA were once taken by a former NSPA official who retired after President Kim Dae-jung took office in 1998, but impounded by the inspection office of the NSPA in mid-1999. The number of tapes confiscated at that time reached at least 8,000. Mirim Team, the clandestine wiretapping team, was reportedly disbanded in 1999.

On the same day, after holding an urgent meeting in a bid to discuss countermeasures over the issue, the NIS issued a press release which said, “It plans to thoroughly ascertain the facts over the alleged illegal wiretapping with the attitude of liquidating past wrongdoings and to announce the truth to the people without covering up any suspicions.”

Meanwhile, regarding the matter, the ruling Uri Party, Millennium Democratic Party, and Democratic Labor Party urged the government to get to the bottom of the issue through measures including an investigation into state administration by the National Assembly. The main opposition Grand National Party also called for a fact-finding investigation into the issue and the prevention of further illegal wiretapping.

Yeon-Wook Jung jyw11@donga.com