SEOUL, Aug. 5 (Korea Bizwire) — A specially assembled National Intelligence Service (NIS) task force announced on August 3 that it had found the NIS had covertly played a part in influencing the discussion revolving around the presidential candidates of the 2012 election pitting Moon Jae-in against Park Geun-hye.
According to the task force’s findings, the intrigue began when the former director of the NIS, Won Sae Hoon, took office. Over roughly a three-year period from 2009 to 2012, the director formed teams of civilians who were tasked with writing comments and posts on major web platforms under approximately 3,500 different online pseudonyms.
These teams trawled the four major websites in Korea (Naver, Daum, Nate, Yahoo) at the time, as well as Twitter, and posted comments that were pro-government in tone. They also categorized netizens’ criticisms of the government as the attempts of pro-North Korean groups to interfere with the government.
Won initially formed nine teams intended to operate within “Agora”, the section of Daum that is designated for news and discussion. Expansion happened aggressively, and by August of 2011, there were 24 teams conducting a variety of tasks in different areas of Daum. By the time the calendar opened to April, 2012, the number of teams had grown to 30.
As the number of teams grew, so too did the financial costs of maintaining the operation. The NIS spent 250 to 300 million won per month to maintain its civilian-manned teams. Though the total expenditure on the project is unclear, the task force believes that 3 billion won was spent in 2012 alone.
There were other troubling discoveries. The task force found that 36 locations were omitted in a list of places to be investigated by the Prosecution Service. The task force said it has uncovered 18 of those locations, and that the recovered materials possibly contain incriminating evidence such as restrictions placed on what the press could report to potential involvement by political figures.
This issue first raised its head during the period leading up to the election of President Park in 2012. Rumors were afloat that members of the NIS’s psychology operations division were the source of slanderous comments about her rival, Moon, while also praising the conservative Park.
Through the efforts of a member of Moon’s party, the police stormed a hideout of one of the NIS team members and arrested those present. However, two days before the election, the police announced that halfway through its investigation, no evidence had been found linking the NIS to the comments, which understandably courted considerable controversy.
In a twist of fate, Moon was sworn into office in May of this year after a snap election, while Park is currently imprisoned on charges of bribery and abuse of power.