The NIS and Suwon prosecutors raided the homes and offices of ten members of the minor left-wing party Unified Progressive Party (UPP), including Rep. Lee Seok-ki.
What’s interesting—other than, obviously, the timing—is what the ten are being accused of:
“(The UPP officials) are charged with conspiracy to stage a rebellion and violating the National Security Law,” said Choi Tae-won, a senior prosecutor of the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office.
Like a lot of folk, I just assumed this was the NIS’s attempt to deflect attention from their own misbehavior by holding up a new shiny object to grab the public’s attention. Naturally enough, I was also curious how the Chosun Ilbo was playing this, so click on over to Chosun.com I did where, unsurprisingly, the story was front and center on their site with the headline (and I’m paraphrasing) “Rep. Lee Seok-ki Ordered Followers to Help North Korea in a War.”
Now, to be fair to both the NIS and the Chosun Ilbo, they may have found a really, really shiny object. According to the Chosun report, the spooks and investigators now have recordings of Lee calling for armed insurrection. More specifically, the NIS say in April 2012—after Lee was elected to the National Assembly—he told about 100 core members of the underground organization of the Gyeonggi Dongbu Alliance (do I need to repeat who they are again?) that if North Korea starts a war, they should prepare to help North Korea by attacking police stations and armories. He also called on them to arm themselves with guns and, if a war were to break out, use those weapons to attack major national facilities.
For that matter, the NIS believes Lee entered the National Assembly on orders from the Gyeonggi Dongbu Alliance. They also say they’ve been investigating Lee and his friends for the last three years, which does make you wonder a) why make their bust now, and b) why didn’t they say anything in, oh, 2012, before a guy they suspected was a pro-North Korean insurrectionist got elected to the National Assembly.
BTW, Rep. Lee is reportedly on the lam; the NIS and prosecutors are trying to discover his current whereabouts. Oh, and staffers at Lee’s office began destroying documents just prior to the raid. Which, yes, does look suspicious.
It wouldn’t be the Chosun we all know and love without them noting that late President Roh Moo-hyun pardoned Lee not just once, but twice.
The Hani is going big with the story, too, although they don’t mention what, specifically, Lee’s accused of saying. Big long quote by the UPP’s spokesperson to finish the story off, though. UPP party chief Lee Jung-hee wasn’t happy, either, with lots of talk of Yusin, President Park’s dad’s penchant for trumping-up espionage charges, and how this was all a bid to get the candlelight protests to stop.
What do I think of this? Well, it probably says a lot about Rep. Lee that I think the charges against him could actually be true. But even if they are, I think it’s pretty obvious that the NIS is trying to draw attention away from their own wrongdoing—wrongdoing, mind you, that is ultimately much more of a threat to Korea’s democracy than a handful of sad-ass lefties fantasizing about playing ppalchisan. I feel about this the way I felt about the NLL scandal—sure, I guess it was nice learning that Roh was more cravenly pro-North Korean and anti-American than even I had supposed he was, but that should in no way distract us from the bigger story, which is that the NIS may have been interfering in domestic politics to a degree that is leading some to question even the legitimacy of the last presidential election.
UPDATE: Cheong Wa Dae says they learned about the NIS raid through the news, just like the rest of us.
A couple of other things about Lee. Before investigators arrived, he apparently put on a disguise, got in a cab and fled. A Cheong Wa Dae official said the organization Lee allegedly formed is the “무장혁명인민기구,” which has the English name of “Revolutionary Organization of People.” And the NIS think between 100 and 200 people are involved in this group, so expect more arrests.