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Prime Minister’s office ran an extensive surveillance program

Sportswriter Bill Simmons came up with something called “The Tyson Zone,” named after Mike Tyson. According to Simmons’ definition, once a celebrity is in the Tyson Zone, you will believe just about any outlandish story about that celebrity. “Mike Tyson  walked into a hostage situation and saved the hostages? Of course he did.” “Mike Tyson ripped off an arm from a guy’s socket in a bar fight? Of course he did.” The term essentially describes an utter loss of expectation that trumps any anchoring to reality.

To me, Lee Myeong-Bak administration just entered the Tyson Zone with this news. “Lee Myeong-Bak administration ran a massive surveillance program on anyone who is remotely opposed to it? Of course it did!” The KBS news labor union released a portion of 2619 documents, composed between 2008 and 2010 by the Prime Minister’s office, that detailed the surveillance results on numerous citizens that may potentially oppose the administration. This news has so many dimensions, all of them appalling:

The scope of the program is breathtaking.  The big targets were former Roh Moo-Hyun administration officials and heads of national corporations, including former police chiefs, former head of Korea FDA, former head of Korea Expressway Corporation, etc. But even the NFP was not free from surveillance. Several maverick NFP Assemblymen (such as Nam Gyeong-Pil, who had been vocal about addressing the administration’s corruption allegations) were also targets of detailed reports of their whereabouts and remarks.

But the surveillance targets were not merely big names in Korean politics and government. Civic leaders, journalists and businessmen, including Hyundai Motors Union, Lee Geon-Hee of Samsung, former head of Kookmin Bank, former head of Korea Red Cross, and the heads of KBS, MBC, YTN, Hankyoreh, etc., were also under surveillance. Low-level policemen who wrote critical posts in internal message boards were under surveillance. Further, anyone who even met with them was also a target for surveillance. Someone who simply had two meals together with a former GNP Assemblyman Jeong Tae-Geun had a surveillance report under his name.

Some of those reports give a minute-by-minute breakdown of activities, facial expressions and words spoken. For example, one surveillance report describing a meeting between a target and his mistress reads: “Purchased two bottles of beer and three bags of snacks. While paying, the woman dropped one of the bottles, which broke. [Target] asked the woman what to buy for her daughter; she replied ‘chocolate’.”

-  There are indications that the Blue House was involved.  The normal line of reporting runs to the Blue House. Also, some of the reports — for example, surveillance on the broadcasting station unions – bore the remark:  “From BH.” BH obviously stands for the Blue House. Blue House released a statement that it is waiting to see the results of the investigation by the Prosecutors’ Office.

- Blue House official ordered the evidence to be destroyed.  A Blue House staffer Lee Yeong-Ho ordered the Prime Minister’s office staffer Jang Jin-Su to destroy the HDD of the computer that contains the surveillance reports. Jang blew the whistle, which put this entire issue into motion. Lee held a press conference to claim that he was the brain behind the entire plot, which was roundly mocked by conservative and liberal newspapers alike. Even a Blue House staffer who watched the press conference wondered out loud if Lee was drunk. Jang, the whistle blower, claims that the destruction of evidence was reported directly to Lee Myeong-Bak.

- Prosecutor’s Office may have covered up the extent of the program.  Allegations of a surveillance program, in fact, were made back in 2010. At the time, the Prosecutor’s Office announced that there were two instances of surveillance, although the office had in its possession the same 2619 documents that the KBS union just released. In fact, when the Prosecutor’s Office submitted evidence to indict the defendants in those two cases, it submitted documentary evidence that redacted to show only those two instances. In the original, unredacted copy released by the KBS union, the same document shows 23 more surveillance programs.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    I am thinking of an over/under for a certain type of comment. I think I would put the line at 6.5 comments.

  • Charles Tilly

    But TK! TK! TK! Progressives governments had a similar outfit as well:

    그 이유를 알기 위해서는 ‘공직윤리비서관실’의 탄생 배경을 이해해야 한다. 노무현 정부 시절에도 이와 유사한 기관이 있었는데, 총리실 산하 ‘조사심의관실’이라는 기관이었다. 공무원들 사이에서는 ‘암행감찰반’ ‘관가(官街)의 저승사자’로 알려져 있는 이 기관은 공직사회의 각종 비리를 조사하는 역할을 맡고 있었다. 그 시절에도 국무총리가 이 기관을 지휘했다기보다는 청와대가 직접 관장했다고 보는 것이 옳다.

    And don’t you know? It was because of those communists back in 2008 with their beef protests that LMB had to bring it back:

    당연히 노무현 정부 시절 조사심의관실의 폐해를 목 놓아 외쳤던 한나라당은, 이명박 대통령이 당선자 시절 인수위 논의를 거쳐 조사심의관실을 폐지하기로 결정한다. 그러나 꿈에도 생각하지 못했던 사건이 발생했다. 광우병 논란으로 대규모 촛불시위가 터져나온 것이다. 결국 이명박 정부도 이러한 기관의 역할을 실감하고, 2008년 7월에 ‘공직윤리지원관실’을 청와대 별관에 설치하기에 이른다.

    C’mon, brah. Get with the fucking program!

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    The under takes it in an ironic fashion.

  • Charles Tilly

    Reading through the reporting on this, I often got confused over who was related to whom, what department they were in, there titles and what not. So that others don’t confused, the folks at 시사저널 have put together a nice organizational table of some kind to hopefully help in keeping things straight.

  • cm

    GIve me a break, TK.

    It’s like clockwork.

  • YangachiBastardo

    Well we gotta give it to 2MB: it takes some major cojones to spy on a certain Mr. Lee.

    Seriously speaking, what’s the big fuss about it ? I heard of similar shit in pretty much any other country

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ jefferyhodges

    Well, I hear tell Prez Lee Myung-bak ripped off some dude’s arm in a bar fight, so better be careful what you write about ‘im, TK.

    Isn’t that right, Prez? I know you’re list’nin’.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ jefferyhodges

    about ‘im

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ jefferyhodges

    Still didn’t work. How does one make an apostrophe at the beginning of a word? Can one refer to Professor ‘sGravesande properly?

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • http://technobar.blogspot.com TheStumbler

    That ‘ould be a glottal “start”

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ jefferyhodges

    Maybe you could engineer one for me.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • http://roboseyo.blogspot.com roboseyo

    What kind of a comment do you think I’d have to make to get added to the surveillance program? I have half a mind to try. It’d be the ultimate feather in my blogger’s cap.

    If I was on the list, I’d add that to my CV when applying for positions in civic organizations.

    Kinda brazen… at least he hasn’t kidnapped any of his political rivals, tied them up, carried them out to sea, and nearly thrown them overboard, but for an intervention by the US.

  • http://dok.do/4aVK41 Year of the Dragon

    Surveillance Consciousness seems to be low amongst Koreans.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    What kind of a comment do you think I’d have to make to get added to the surveillance program? I have half a mind to try. It’d be the ultimate feather in my blogger’s cap.

    My blog is banned in China. Ha!

  • http://bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    jeffery — Use the HTML entity ' to insert an apostrophe without it getting munged by the XHTML processor.

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ jefferyhodges

    Thanks, BC. Now, I can type “Professor 'sGravesande” without having to echo Voltaire by referring to “the professor whose name begins with an apostrophe“!

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ jefferyhodges

    Hmmm . . . there must be something that I still fail to understand, probably “HTML entity” . . .

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    The Chosun Ilbo, needless to say, seems to be putting a different spin on this all:

    http://news.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2012/03/31/2012033100234.html?news_top
    http://news.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2012/03/31/2012033100237.html?news_topR

    Hey, just be glad they’re reporting it at all.

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  • adhaglin

    i have a question on this, maybe some of you who are more familiar can help me out. what is korea’s system for appointing a PM and how autonomous is he/she, generally? wikipedia’s rundown on kim hwang-sik and the PM’s role in general is woefully inadequate.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com setnaffa

    Are the people against this also against Obama’s continuation of warrant-less wiretaps like Bush ’43, Clinton, etc.?

    And would they be willing to publish that as boldly?

    Are they against the Pyongyang and Beijing varieties?

  • Yu Bum Suk

    And this kind of thing doesn’t happen in every country? After 9/11 almost every country in the world greatly increased its surveillance programme and took away privacy rights. I knew someone who got followed around during Gulf War I by CISS for being a member of the NDP and a Kurdish rights activist. He was as anti-Saddam as anyone could be.

    What this also detracts from is the fact that there are no doubt some on the list who should be under surveillance, including some who may appear completely harmless on the outside.

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