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  • Former spymaster gets 2-year jail term for graft

    SEOUL, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) — A Seoul court on Wednesday sentenced a former intelligence chief to two years behind bars for accepting kickbacks from a businessman while in office.

    Won Sei-hoon, who headed the National Intelligence Service (NIS) under former President Lee Myung-bak, was found guilty of taking some 160 million won (US$150,000) in bribes from the former head of now-bankrupt Hwangbo Construction in exchange for influence peddling between 2009 and 2010.

    The Seoul Central District Court also ordered the disgraced former NIS chief to pay a fine of some 160 million won.

    The court said that Hwang Bo-yeon, the former Hwangbo chief, allegedly asked Won to help the company clinch major construction deals from public institutions and large corporations.

    “Heavy punishment is inevitable because the nature of the crime is severe,” judge Lee Bum-kyun said in his ruling, adding that the former NIS chief has not shown sincere remorse for his crime.

    In a separate case, the 63-year-old Won is standing trial on charges of meddling in 2012 presidential election.

    Won was charged with ordering some of his agents to use the Internet to sway public opinion in favor of President Park Geun-hye, the then ruling party candidate, ahead of the presidential vote in December 2012.

    The court is scheduled to deliver a verdict for the second charge in February, court officials said.

    Won served as first vice mayor of Seoul when former President Lee was mayor. He was also minister of public administration and security under the Lee administration.

    Yonhap News Agency January 22, 2014 8:50am

    Find this story at 22 January 2014

    Copyright Yonhap News Agency, 2014

    Ruling party boycotts hearing on spy agency scandal

    SEOUL, July 26 (Yonhap) — The ruling Saenuri Party on Friday boycotted a hearing on the state spy agency’s alleged meddling in last year’s presidential election as it wrangled with opposition parties over whether the meeting should be open to the public.

    The ruling party has argued that the hearing should be held behind closed doors because it is likely to touch on sensitive intelligence issues as lawmakers question National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief Nam Jae-joon and other officials of the spy agency in connection with the scandal.

    Opposition parties have insisted that the hearing be open to the public so as to ensure its transparency.

    The scandal centers on allegations that former NIS chief Won Sei-hoon ordered an online smear campaign to sway public opinion in favor of the ruling party ahead of last December’s presidential election.

    A parliamentary probe has been under way since early this month to determine the truth behind those allegations.

    Friday’s hearing was supposed to be the first time for the parliamentary investigative committee to question NIS officials in connection with the case.

    Earlier this week, the committee held hearings with the Ministry of Justice and the National Police Agency over the scandal.

    The hearing opened with only the opposition parties’ investigative committee members in attendance. NIS officials were also absent from the meeting.

    The opposition members immediately held a press conference condemning the boycott, saying they will charge Nam for boycotting the hearing without permission and take steps to impeach him.

    Yonhap News Agency July 26, 2013 5:35am

    Find this story at 26 July 2013

    Copyright Yonhap News Agency, 2013.

    Rival parties clash over probe into spy agency scandal

    YSEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) — Rival parties clashed Thursday over whether the police tried to cover up the state spy agency’s alleged meddling in last year’s presidential election, leading to a brief suspension of a parliamentary probe into the scandal.

    The probe, which began early this month, aims to uncover the truth behind allegations that former National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief Won Sei-hoon ordered an online smear campaign to sway public opinion in favor of the ruling Saenuri Party ahead of last December’s presidential election.

    Kim Yong-pan, the then Seoul metropolitan police chief, has been accused of downsizing a police investigation into the scandal and covering up its results.

    Both Won and Kim were indicted last month on charges of meddling in the election.

    On Thursday, the parliamentary probe committee questioned National Police Agency (NPA) chief Lee Sung-han and other senior police officials in connection with the case.

    Rep. Jung Chung-rai of the main opposition Democratic Party, who serves on the investigative committee, showed CCTV footage of what he claimed was a meeting at the NPA headquarters on Dec. 15.

    That footage backed allegations that the police had tried to cover up and destroy evidence of the spy agency’s alleged smear campaign against the opposition party’s then-presidential contender, Moon Jae-in, he claimed.

    Ruling party members on the committee walked out of the room in protest of Jung’s claims. The meeting was suspended for about 20 minutes before the rival parties agreed to resume the probe.

    Yonhap News Agency July 25, 2013 9:33am

    Find this story at 25 July 2013

    Copyright Yonhap News Agency, 2013.

    Parliamentary probe into spy agency scandal kicks off

    SEOUL, July 24 (Yonhap) — A parliamentary probe into the state spy agency’s alleged meddling in last year’s presidential election began Wednesday with a hearing attended by justice ministry officials as rival parties questioned the legitimacy of a now-complete prosecution investigation into the scandal.

    The parliamentary probe aims to uncover the truth behind allegations that former National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief Won Sei-hoon ordered an online smear campaign to sway public opinion in favor of the ruling Saenuri Party ahead of last December’s presidential election.

    Last month, prosecutors indicted Won and former Seoul metropolitan police chief Kim Yong-pan on charges of meddling in the election.

    Kim has been accused of downscaling a police investigation into the scandal in its early stages.

    The ruling party claims that the alleged smear campaign was in fact an attempt by the NIS to eliminate pro-North Korea opinions on the Internet ahead of the election.

    “Was the NIS’ psychological warfare staff using their status as public officials when posting anonymous comments on websites and clicking on ‘recommend’ or ‘disapprove?'” Rep. Kim Do-eup of the ruling party said during the hearing at the National Assembly.

    Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said not all of the NIS’ psychological warfare activities are classified as illegal, but the charges against Won were related to certain illegal elements that were found in the spy agency’s activities.

    Rep. Jung Chung-rai of the main opposition Democratic Party defended the prosecution’s decision, claiming Won illegally intervened in the election and influenced the vote.

    2013/07/24 15:19

    Find this story at 24 July 2013

    Copyrights Yonhap News Agency

    NIS: The Beginning and the End of “NLL Controversy”

    The National Intelligence Service (NIS) is now taking the center stage in the controversy over the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the West Sea of Korea, as the real the origin of all disputes. As the search for 2007 North-South Summit Minutes at the Presidential Archives finally ended in vain, the full text kept by the NIS has practically become the ‘only copy’ at present.

    It means that the sources of current and recent debates must have been exposed by the NIS.
    Suspicion seems to be turning into certainty: it seems now almost certain that the NIS leaked the ‘minutes’ material, which has been allegedly used by then-candidate Park Geun-hye’s campaign in the 2012 presidential election. The current situation tells us that the NIS is the one and only source of the information on NLL, which has been shared among and used by the ruling party in its political attacks last year.

    Right before the 2012 presidential election, the ruling Saenuri Party strengthened its attacks regarding former President Roh Moo-hyun’s alleged ‘remarks on abandoning the NLL.’ On October 8, 2012, at National Assembly inspection on the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, Rep. Chung Moon-hun disclosed that there existed confidential minutes. According to him, “Former President Roh said, ‘The NLL is a trouble for us. It is a line arbitrarily drawn by the United States in its efforts to win more territories뻞ence the South will not claim the NLL in the future.'”

    A voice-recording file containing the words by Kwon Young-se, ambassador to China and former chief of campaign operations for Park Geun-hye, was unburied. In this voice-recording on December 10 last year, Kwon said, “It is no problem to get the material [minutes]. The source [of the material] will be either Cheong Wa Dae or the NIS. And we will open [go public with] it once we come to power.”

    Rep. Kim Moo-sung, former director of Park’s campaign, made a comment in this regard while canvassing in Busan on December 14: “Former President Roh said, ‘Regarding the NLL issue, there is no evidence in terms of international law; nor is there any logical ground. This is not a constitutional matter, either.'” Rep. Kim’s expressions exactly correspond to the full text revealed by the NIS, to almost every letter and punctuation.

    All these circumstances demonstrate the possibility that the minutes leaked before the presidential election last year, to be used by Park’s campaign.

    A high level official of the ruling party also gave a statement on what happened prior to 2012: “Cheong Wa Dae under Lee Myung-bak government was reported of the full text of the minutes in 2009 and the excerpts in 2010, by the NIS.”

    At the National Assembly inspection on the Office of President conducted on October 25 last year, Chun Young-woo, then-presidential secretary of foreign affairs and national security gave a testimony, which can be summed up as the following: “Two years ago, not long after I was appointed to be the presidential secretary [in October 2010], I have seen [the minutes maintained by the NIS].”

    Suspicion gets stronger here: no matter what channel they went through, the minutes managed by the NIS must have been disclosed and then transferred to the presidential election campaign organized by the Saenuri Party.

    This is why the opposition parties are looking at the NIS from a new angle, for being behind the leakage of the minutes at the time of 2012 election and behind the ruling party’s consequent political assails.

    Rep. Park Ji-won of the opposition Democratic Party had an interview on the SBS radio on July 23 and said, “In the first place, the real problem is that the record in the custody of the NIS has leaked during the presidential election, to be taken advantage of by the Saenuri Party in the campaign.”

    Rep. Jung Chung-rae, the opposition secretary in the Special Committee of the National Assembly Inspection, remarked, “We can determine later whether [the minutes kept by the Presidential Archives] is really absent or just evaded our search this time. What became clear now is the fact that the one and only source of leakage is none other than the NIS.” He added, “Nam Jae-joon, director of the NIS also said that the NIS version is the original and authentic copy. What [Reps.] Chung Moon-hun and Kim Moo-sung read must have been revealed to them by the NIS. This issue will be closely examined at the special committee of the national assembly.”

    By Kim Jin-woo, Shim Hye-ri
    Posted on : 2013-07-24 10:24

    Find this story at 24 July 2013

    Copyright (C)1996-2014 Kyunghyang Shinmun

    Korean spy agency accused of meddling in politics

    During last year’s presidential election, a team of South Korean intelligence agents allegedly flooded the Internet with several thousand political comments, including some describing left-leaning candidates as North Korea sympathizers.

    Then, while that scandal has continued to play out, another drama has unfolded, as the spy agency last month declassified a 2007 transcript that showed then-president Roh Moo-hyun, a liberal, pressing to create a peace zone along a maritime border disputed with the North.

    Conservative lawmakers say the transcript proves Roh preferred to cooperate with Pyongyang than protect security. Liberal lawmakers say the spy agency, instead, was manufacturing one controversy to distract from the other.

    The two events are convoluted, but both have dominated headlines for weeks in the South. They also have a common thread: South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS), which some analysts here say has turned into a political provocateur, using its power to champion conservative causes and widen a partisan divide.

    Because of its Stalinist neighbor, the South has long defined itself along Cold War lines, with political ideology here linked in part to one’s sentiment about the North. But in the 2012 election, that had appeared to be changing. On the campaign trail, conservative Park Geun-hye and liberal Moon Jae-in shared similar visions for social spending and tentative engagement with the North. When Park won by 3 percentage points, she vowed to unify the nation.

    Silence on spy agency

    In the six months since her victory, that hasn’t happened, and Park’s opponents criticise her for staying quiet about the spy agency’s actions, rather than condemning them.

    Only in late June did she first discuss the alleged election-meddling – the first parts of which came to light last December – saying she had was neither connected to nor a beneficiary of the agency’s potential misdeeds.

    “I don’t think this allegation puts her legitimacy in question,” said Kang Won-Taek, a right-leaning professor of political science at Seoul National University. “How many people’s opinions could have been affected by some Internet postings? But it’s true that it’s not a pretty scene for Park” to deal with.

    Her approval rating remains high – above 60 percent, according to most polls. But opposition lawmakers have seized on the election-tampering charges to raise questions about Park’s victory, and small groups of protesters have gathered in recent days in cities across South Korea to demand an investigation and a greater response from Park.

    The NIS, South Korea’s version of the CIA, is supposed to remain politically neutral. But prosecutors say its former leader, Won Sei-hoon, indicted last month on charges of election meddling, believed that “leftist followers of North Korea” were trying to regain power in the South.

    He ordered his agents to post comments not only criticising Park’s opponents, but also lauding Park, prosecutors say. Won resigned earlier this year, having served under the previous president, Lee Myung-bak. If found guilty, Won would face as long as five years in jail.

    “It is grave – a big deal. It’s all about dividing the country into two parts – the patriots, and those who sympathise with North Korea,” said Pyo Chang-won, who hosts a current affairs Internet television show and has spoken at protests. “The NIS is supposed to be politically neutral, but it has used its intelligence force to attack half the nation.”

    Left-leaning lawmakers say the problems at the NIS have continued under Won’s successor, Nam Jae-joon, who they say unilaterally released a document that shouldn’t have been made public for decades.

    At a closed-door meeting of the National Assembly’s intelligence committee, Nam was grilled about the release, according to South Korean media, and asked whether he had any intention to resign. (He said he didn’t.)

    Dubious history

    South Korea’s intelligence agency has gone by several names since the Korean War 60 years ago, but it has a dubious history.

    Former authoritarian leader Park Chung-hee, who seized power in a 1961 military coup, used the agency as a tool to crack down on student protests. In 1979, Park was assassinated by his own spy chief.

    After South Korea’s democratisation in the late-1980s, the agency officially became apolitical. But opponents say the agency is now helping Park Geun-hye in much the way it helped Park Chung-hee, her father. Monday, the Hankyoreh, South Korea’s major liberal newspaper, printed a cartoon showing Park, in a military outfit, surrounded by cronies holding computer keyboards and mouses.

    The image was modeled after a photo of Park Chung-hee, flanked by top military officials, after his coup.

    Analysts say the alleged election tampering is far more serious than the debate about the 2007 transcript. But that controversy, too, has provided weeks of fodder for South Koreans.

    Touchy issue

    The transcript showed the conversation between Roh and then-North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Il during a summit meeting in Pyongyang. Interest in the specifics of what Roh told Kim dated back to last year, when some conservative lawmakers suggested that Roh had offered to surrender parts of South Korean maritime territory in an undisciplined effort to make peace with the North. The charge was potent, because the liberal running for president last year, Moon, had once served as Roh’s chief of staff.

    According to the transcript, while discussing the maritime border, Roh said that it “should change.” But he also said, presciently, that the issue was touchy. “The problem is that whenever the [maritime border] is mentioned, everyone rises and make noises like a swarm bees,” Roh said.

    In the closest she’s come to taking a side on the issue, Park, one day after the transcript’s release, told her cabinet that the South should never forget the “blood and deaths” that occurred in defense of that border.

    Published: July 8, 2013 – 11:43AM

    Find this story at 8 July 2013

    Copyright © 2014 Fairfax Media

    Prosecutors Raid South Korean Spy Agency in Presidential Election Inquiry

    SEOUL, South Korea — State prosecutors raided the headquarters of the National Intelligence Service of South Korea on Tuesday to investigate accusations that the spy agency used its agents and hired bloggers to influence the presidential election in December.

    The raid, which started on Tuesday morning and continued into the evening, was highly unusual, dealing a blow to the reputation of the spy agency. Such a raid would have been unthinkable decades ago when the agency had served as the main tool of political control for South Korea’s military dictators.

    Even after South Korea was democratized in the early 1990s, prosecutors raided the secretive agency only once — in 2005, when it was revealed that the agency illegally ran an extensive operation of bugging the telephones of politicians, businessmen, journalists and others.

    Although the intelligence agency has repeatedly vowed not to meddle in politics, accusations of wrongdoing by its agents resurfaced during the campaign for the Dec. 19 presidential election. The main opposition, the Democratic United Party, and government critics accused the agency of trying to influence online debates in favor of President Park Geun-hye, the governing party’s candidate at the time. Ms. Park beat her opposition rival, Moon Jae-in, by a million votes.

    Last month, the police said that at least two agents from the National Intelligence Service illegally posted comments online criticizing the political opposition ahead of the election. But they said they could not determine whether the two were part of a much bigger operation by the leadership of the agency to influence the election, as the opposition party alleged.

    A chief police investigator, who had been replaced in the middle of the investigation, said in interviews with domestic news media that her bosses had intervened in an effort to whitewash the inquiry. The National Police Agency denied the accusation.

    Prosecutors have since taken over the investigation.

    They themselves faced a long-running accusation from the political opposition and other critics that they shied away from offending the top political power. Because of that mistrust, the political parties have agreed to begin a separate parliamentary investigation.

    On Tuesday, prosecutors raided the psychological intelligence bureau in the spy agency’s sprawling compound in the southern edge of the South Korean capital, Seoul.

    Their action came a day after prosecutors summoned the former intelligence service director, Won Sei-hoon, a close ally of former President Lee Myung-bak, for questioning. Two other senior intelligence officials were questioned in the past few days.

    The spy agency had no comment on the raid, a spokesman said by telephone. But it had earlier denied interfering in the election. The agency said its officers’ online activities had been part of its normal psychological operations aimed at North Korea.

    April 30, 2013

    Find this story at 30 April 2013

    © 2013 The New York Times Company

    Korean spy’s deportation reveals web of intrigue

    ASIO headquarters in Canberra … reports say the agency alleges Yeon Kim, a senior agricultural trade specialist, was involved in “foreign interference” by the Korean spies. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

    Relations between Australia and South Korea have been strained after the east Asian economic powerhouse was caught soliciting sensitive information from public servants, and the deportation of a South Korean spy for espionage in 2009 was disclosed.

    New details of South Korean espionage in Australia were revealed in an unfair dismissal case before the Fair Work Commission brought by a former intelligence officer with the Australian Federal Police, Bo-Rim “Bryan” Kim.

    The commission this week rejected an unfair dismissal appeal by Mr Kim, who previously worked part-time at the South Korean consulate-general in Sydney. He then worked as an information technology staffer for the AFP in Sydney before transferring to criminal intelligence for Sydney Airport.

    A Fair Work judgment released this week said Federal Police management terminated his employment in August 2012 after the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation recommended revoking his security clearance.

    Commissioner Geoff Bull said ASIO alleged Mr Kim had committed an “act of foreign interference” by passing sensitive information to the intelligence services of a foreign government.

    “Mr Kim attempted to diminish the complaints made against him on the basis that he had not attempted to gain any benefit from his conduct and some of the allegations made against him were not accurate.

    “In any event, Mr Kim was remorseful and recognised his mistakes,” he said in the judgment.

    Mr Bull said Mr Kim told ASIO a consular employee who had sought information from him in January 2009 on terrorism responses at Sydney Airport was understood to be an intelligence officer or “secret squirrel”.

    “This consulate employee was deported from Australia in March 2009 for espionage,” his judgment said. “Mr Kim had also been invited to and attended a dinner at this consulate employee’s apartment, which Mr Kim did not consider an important enough contact to report.”

    In a separate case, an immigrant and senior trade specialist at the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Yeon Kim, lost his job after an adverse ASIO security assessment against him in 2011.

    A Federal Court judgment this year said Dr Kim was alleged to have provided information to an intelligence officer working for what was then described as “country X”.

    The information concerned negotiations between Australia and country X on an “important bilateral trade agreement” and its disclosure was alleged to have been an act of foreign interference under the ASIO Act.

    The Administrative Appeals Tribunal last year rejected an appeal by Dr Kim over his adverse assessment, but there has been subsequent litigation in the Federal Court on a planned appeal.

    In March, Federal Court judge Lindsay Foster refused to extend non-publication orders on details of the case that were sought by the head of ASIO, David Irvine, ruling the information did not go to issues of national security or defence.

    Dr Kim, the main author of an ABARES study on the South Korean beef market, is alleged to have met a South Korean diplomat in mid-2010 who was a known officer of that country’s National Intelligence Service.

    Mark Skulley and John Kerin

    PUBLISHED: 02 May 2013 09:11:00 | UPDATED: 03 May 2013 08:12:40

    Find this story at 2 May 2013

    © Copyright 2011 Fairfax Media Publications Pty Ltd

    Spies caught in Canberra

    South Korean spies have been caught cultivating public servants in Canberra to obtain trade secrets, with one Australian official sacked for disclosing sensitive information.

    Previously suppressed information released by the Federal Court reveals that South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) had sought “to obtain sensitive information” on trade negotiations between Canberra and Seoul.

    A senior Australian agricultural trade specialist, Dr Yeon Kim, has lost his security clearance and employment with the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.

    The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation alleged Dr Kim was involved in the “foreign interference” by the South Korean intelligence operatives.

    The revelation of economic espionage is embarrassing to Seoul and Canberra as Australia has strongly backed South Korea in its stand-off with North Korea. Last month Australian troops took part in joint military exercises with South Korea and the United States for the first time.

    Although engaged in what ASIO described as “inappropriate activities” harmful to Australia’s interests, no South Korean spies have been expelled from Australia. Instead, in an effort to maintain good relations with the NIS, ASIO took legal action to prevent disclosure of the incident and protect the identities of the South Korean agents so they might continue their clandestine careers.

    In mid-2010 ASIO learnt Dr Kim had been meeting a South Korean diplomat declared to the Australian government as an NIS liaison officer. Dr Kim, the principal author of an ABARES study of the Korean beef market, had taken part in free trade agreement negotiations between Australia and South Korea in December 2009.

    ASIO officers interviewed Dr Kim in October 2010. On September 15, 2011, ASIO director-general David Irvine issued an adverse security assessment of Dr Kim “after finding that he had had contact with successive NIS officers who he had not reported as required by Australian government policy”.

    ASIO alleged Dr Kim had been involved in clandestine contact with and provided sensitive information to an NIS officer, South Korean embassy minister-counsellor Hoo-Young Park.

    ASIO determined that Dr Kim had been “successfully cultivated” by the NIS; that he had been “deceptive” in his responses to questioning; and there was a “specific threat” to Australian government information. ASIO recommended his secret-level security clearance be revoked, effectively ending his career as a public servant.

    Dr Kim has said his contact with South Korean diplomats was purely social and any discussion of trade issues was confined to publicly available information.

    Philip Dorling
    Published: May 2, 2013 – 7:57AM

    Find this story at 2 May 2013

    © 2013 Fairfax Media

    South Korean spies sought Australian trade secrets

    Australia’s foreign minister says issue has caused no diplomatic tension with Seoul

    Agents from South Korea’s national intelligence service have tried to get secret information about Australian trade, triggering the dismissal of an Australian public servant over his links to the agency.

    The spy case dates back to 2010 and relates to efforts by South Korea to find out about Australian agricultural trade when the two nations were in early negotiations on a free-trade agreement.

    Australia’s foreign minister, Bob Carr, refused to comment on details of the case on Thursday, citing “matters of security or intelligence”, but said the issue had caused no diplomatic tension with Seoul, a strong ally and key trading partner.

    “I believe the relationship with the Republic of Korea is so strong, so robust, that this will have no effect on it,” Carr said.

    South Korea is Australia’s fourth biggest trade partner, with bilateral trade worth more than A$32bn (£21bn). The two countries launched free-trade talks in 2009, but have yet to clinch a deal.

    Reuters in Canberra
    guardian.co.uk, Thursday 2 May 2013 08.14 BST

    Find this story at 2 May 2013

    © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.