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Authorities, opposition party sway prosecutorial probe of ex-spy agency chief

Authorities, opposition party sway prosecutorial probe of ex-spy agency chief

Posted June. 12, 2013 05:13,   


Investigating the National Intelligence Service’s suspected intervention in politics, prosecutors have reportedly decided to book without arrest Won Se-hoon, former chief of the spy agency, on the charge of violating the National Intelligence Service Act and the Public Official Election Act. It is doubtful whether the case is light enough to conclude only by booking him without arrest if the chief of a powerful state organization such as the spy agency interfered with elections with the aim of getting the ruling party candidate elected.

Won is suspected of instructing his staff to upload thousands of web posts for and against certain candidates and to express support and objection to such posts by mobilizing his agency’s staff and using hundreds of online IDs on dozens of Internet communities, and even receiving post-activity reporting during last year’s presidential election. Prosecutors arrested last month a man identified by his last name, Nah, on the charge of uploading to his Twitter account more than 10 times false accusations that singer Eun Ji-won is the son of President Park Geun-hye and pastor Choi Tae-min. The two cases are different in nature, but nobody would believe that charges against Won are lighter than those against Nah. Nevertheless, prosecutors are to book Won without physically detaining him, a measure that is unfair at the best.

Prosecutors was accused of dawdling in taking legal action against Won even after concluding interrogation of people involved in the case, following a search and seizure into the National Intelligence Service. The probe into the spy agency can be considered the first investigation under the leadership of Prosecutors-General Chae Dong-wook. When police transferred the case over the spy agency to prosecution, prosecutors immediately placed a travel ban on Won. Prosecution sought an opportunity to recover its stature that hit the rock bottom by arresting and indicting Won. But the ruling party raised a concern that if the charges of election law violation are filed against Won, the legitimacy of President Park’s election could suffer a setback.

The main opposition Democratic Party pressured prosecution through political offensive, based on the groundless accusations that Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn exercised his right to supervise probe, and that Kwak Sang-do, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, telephoned the prosecution in order to prevent the charges of election law violation from being filed against Won. Democratic Party Chairman Kim Han-ghil threatened that he would submit a motion to dismiss Justice Minister Hwang, even before prosecutors clarify whether to indict Won or not. Regardless of whether it is the ruling or opposition party, pressure on prosecutors that are engaged in investigation will undermine political neutrality and fairness of prosecutorial probe.

The unfortunate history of the National Intelligence Service intervening in politics should have ended in the course of the nation’s democratization. Nonetheless, a string of spy agency chiefs have faced legal actions for their involvement in eavesdropping and intervention in politics, because those in power used the agency as a political tool. Now, it is the court that will have to determine whether Won had an intention to get a certain presidential candidate elected, or only went astray or too far in his bid to stage a psychological warfare in the fight against pro-North Korea forces in the South.