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Will There Be More Tapes in Eavesdropping Scandal?

Posted July. 25, 2005 03:04,   


After the disclosure of a wiretapped videotape on clandestine conversations between Hong Seok-hyun, then-president of the JoongAng Daily, and Lee Hak-soo, who was serving as head of chief executive’s office at Samsung Group, during the 1997 presidential election, speculation is intensifying that there might be other eavesdropping tapes.

According to current and former National Intelligence Service (NIS) officials, chances are very high that wiretapped tapes other than the one featuring the Hong-Lee conversations might actually exist. They said that during the presidential election back in 1997, indiscriminate eavesdropping attempts had been made over major presidential candidates and other relevant officials, some of which were leaked and are now being spread.

“Under Director of NIS Cheon Yong-taek in 1999, the inspection department made a raid on the house of Mr. K, who was the head of the ‘Mirim Team,’ and captured a large number of wiretapped tapes from there. Approximately 30 to 40 of them, however, were left, and some of our former staff leaked them to the outside,” said a former NIS official.

Most of the tapes captured back then were destroyed by fire, but some of them are said to have been delivered to key figures of the ruling party at that time. Actually, word had spread among members of the former governing party that “there is a tape of a secret agreement between a presidential candidate and a leading figure over appointing the latter as prime minister if the candidate is elected president.” A former NIS staff member said, “It seems that when seizing those tapes, some of them fell into the hands of key ruling party officials.”

Hong Seok-hyun, the former president of the JoongAng Daily and the core of the scandal, suggested that there might be several wiretap tapes. “I heard that hundreds of eavesdropped tapes have been circulated after being leaked in the early days of the Kim Dae-jung administration. It seems strange that rumors are recently spreading only over the ones which have to do with me,” said Hong on July 12, before the report on NSPA eavesdropping came out.

Quite a few of the tapes that were not retained are said to be “megaton bombs.” A member of the former ruling party said, “The wiretapped videotape which was disclosed this time is nothing but the tip of the iceberg,” adding, “A huge stir might be created when the facts in their entirety eventually come to light.”

Seo Sang-mok, the former member of the National Assembly whose actual name was revealed in the tape, raised questions in a telephone interview with Dong-A Ilbo, saying, “Given that former President Kim Young-sam was in office back then, it does not make sense that he had not wiretapped then-presidential candidate Kim Dae-jung. Then why is only the transcript on Lee Hoe-chang being spread, not on [Kim]?” This is akin to speculation that even more shocking eavesdropping revelations may yet be disclosed.

Young-Chan Yoon yyc11@donga.com needjung@donga.com