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Why anti-spy agency protests fizzle out

Posted July. 05, 2013 06:28,   


There have been rallies at the Gwanghwamun area in central Seoul protesting the National Intelligence Service’s (NIS) alleged intervention in last year’s presidential election. Some leftists expect the rallies to escalate to the candlelight rallies of 2008. This time, the rallies have more justifications. While the 2008 rallies were sparked by groundless rumors about mad-cow disease, the latest demonstrations are against the spy agency’s alleged violation of the election law.

Nevertheless, most citizens are disinterested in the rallies, unlike in 2008 when housewives and teenagers took to the streets. Probably, the leftists think that there is no trigger this time that could sentimentally prompt people to act as much as the mad-cow disease fears.

Unlike in 2008, most people are aware of the truth of the matter. In 2008, it took some time for the public to find out truth about mad-cow disease due to rampant rumors and instigations by leftist media. This time, however, people made their own judgments about the severity of the issue and illegality.

The prosecution has concluded that the former spy chief, Won Sei-hoon, stressed the need to “cleanse” the country of North Korea-following leftists and that staff members of the spy agency took it as an order to intervene in the presidential election, posting online comments criticizing opposition candidates. The prosecution has verified 73 such online comments.

Based on the findings, the leftists argue that last year’s presidential election was rigged because of the NIS intervention and that therefore, the Park Geun-hye administration is not legitimate. Based on the logics, they call for the president’s resignation and nullification of her election victory.

However, the general public believe that although the NIS`s violation of the election law is an intolerable crime, it was not signification enough to affect the result of the presidential election and that therefore, the scandal is not a matter that would justify arguments about a rigged election.

“If the NIS did make organized efforts to intervene in the election, would the agents leave just dozens of online comments slandering opposition candidates?” asked a university student who was passing by the venue of a rally. In fact, just one person can post 73 comments by himself or herself in one hour. Of course, the prosecution may not have discovered all of such comments. Even if so, it is unlikely that there are hundreds of thousands or even millions of such comments that have not been found. If the opposition camp really believes that the prosecution’s findings are just a tip of an iceberg, it should have demanded investigation by an independent counsel, rather than a parliamentary investigation into the case.

The prosecution would think that it is unfairly suspected of cover-ups. I think that the prosecution’s special investigation team made a lot of political considerations. I am not saying that the prosecution was going easy on those in power. Circumstantially speaking, the judicial authorities were affected by the urgency to recover public trust in its investigations and its sense of duty to have to end the spy agency’s intervention in domestic politics. One should rather criticize the prosecution for its excessive sense of duty and spirit of the time, rather than its attempt to cover up facts.

Needless to say, the small number of online comments does not lessen the NIS’s wrongdoings. Such acts by the NIS, which has a shameful history of having worked for dictators, is the same of a repeat crime of sex assault committed by a habitual sex criminal. Even what the criminal did was a touch of a hand, it is unforgivable.

Nevertheless, the public do not think that what the NIS did undermined the basis of our democracy or that the 2012 presidential election was rigged. This is the point where there is difference between the public, who made multilayered judgments about a certain issue, and the left-leaning activists, who make linear leaps of logic.

The NIS scandal reminds me of Cho Se-hyeong, a famous thief who daringly robbed the homes of wealthy and influential figures in the 1970s and 1980s. In April, he was caught trying to break into a house in southern Seoul by noisily breaking a window. In the amateurish job done by the spy agency, which failed to cure itself of its disease of political intervention and has been disgraced while leaving low-quality online comments, I see the thief criticizing himself for not being “professional” enough. In the left-wing activists who claim that last year’s presidential election was rigged, I see the tenacity of a chronic disease.