The Marmot's Hole

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Category: South Korean Politics (page 2 of 46)

Getting Smart – A Bipartisan Plan For Reforming The NIS and Its Role in A Democracy?

The Saenuri Dang and Democratic Party have finally reached an agreement to form a special committee to reform the NIS, in light of the twitter electioneering performed by NIS agents during the last election:

. . . the NIS reform committee will have the right to review and pass bills. It will be operational through February 2014.
It will consist of seven lawmakers from each party and be headed by Representative Chung Se-kyun, a fifth-term Democratic lawmaker. “I feel an immense historical responsibility,” Chung said in a statement after being selected. “I think turning the NIS into an agency that citizens can rely on, rather than one they fear, is the task of the times.” (link)

Get_smart

Former NIS Director Won Sei-hoon took direction from . . . ?

Under the direction of Won Sei-woon, indicted former Director of the NIS, a group of NIS agents posted and reposted up to 22 million messages, in support of Park Geun-hye’s campaign:

 

 

 

Prosecutors isolated a primary group of 383 “definite” accounts, including ones admitted to by NIS agents, and found that messages from those accounts had simultaneously gone out to another 2,270 accounts, which were found to be shared by NIS agents. By looking at the total of 2,653 accounts administered by the agents, they found 22 million tweets that were posted or linked between January 2011 and December 2012.

The committee future agenda is agreed upon, only in principle, since both parties are still arguing over just how far reform should go and in what form “reform” will come in since there are upcoming elections that Saenuri Dang is worried about negative PR regarding their role in this fiasco :

(the) agreement laid out Tuesday night states that both parties will “continue discussing when to hold the special investigation, and the scope of the probe,” leaving room for further negotiations. (link)

As the editorial in the JoongAng Ilbo put it “The bipartisan initiative may be more productive than Park Geun-hye’s idea of encouraging the agency to reform itself.” (link), which, of course is like a gentleman’s spanking club – it sounds like punishment but seems more like strange entertainment.

A bipartisan plan is desperately needed to remedy the polarization of politics in South Korea, IMHO.  Per an excellent essay, about the current state of South Korean politics, by Jamie Doucette and Se-Woong Koo:

(There has been) a broader shift in political discourse (in South Korea). For the purpose of discrediting its opponents, the broader South Korean right has returned to its cavalier use of the chimerical label chongbuk chwap’a: a term commonly translated as ‘pro-North leftists,’ encompassing not only suspected proxies of North Korea but anyone seen as deferential to the wishes of the North. The term ‘chong’ means to obey or follow, with connotations of being slavish, while ‘buk’ means North. Chwap’a stands for ‘left faction,’ or leftist. The way in which chongbuk has been coupled with chwap’a as a compound term in contemporary conservative discourse attempts to erase the distinction between what were originally two very different concepts, such that in the current political climate the left become synonymous with chongbuk, and vice versa. This terminology has been used to discredit groups from across the liberal-left opposition, including not only the UPP, but also Democratic Party politicians associated with the liberal administrations of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. These politicians have faced vilification by the right as chongbuk for assuming a conciliatory stance towards North Korea, and for seeking to reform the state apparatus designed by former military governments to contain dissent.
In this essay, we argue that this rhetorical shift has been accompanied by an expansion of what South Korean intellectuals term ‘politics by public security,’ a phrase used to describe the use of public security as a ground for stifling dissent and criticism. What is unique about the present moment is not simply the evocation of a threat to national security but the extent to which state agencies have been actively involved in this process, whether it be in the form of direct electoral interference, the leaking of confidential state documents, or the initiation of probes into prominent critics of the government from across the liberal-progressive opposition. In what follows, we examine the recent sequence of events from NIS electoral interference to the more recent move to disband the United Progressive Party in order to better understand distorting effects to Korean democracy brought about by this recent rhetorical shift and its intricate relation to ‘politics by public security.’

The link to this essay is here.

The Revenge of Chae Dong-Wook – A Blue House Aid Busted!

bustedApparently, the trail of the person involved in discrediting General Prosecutor Chae Dong-Wook has been followed to a Blue House Staff member, who – naturally – acted without the knowledge or instructions of his superiors in the Blue House:

“Cho, who was on the Blue House general affairs team, sent a text message via mobile phone to Cho Lee-je at the Seocho District Office asking him to verify the information on June 11,” said Lee Jung-hyun, the senior presidential secretary for public affairs, at a press briefing yesterday. . . Cho, had “received the personal information of the woman and her son,”. . . The Blue House official added it was a government worker at the Ministry of Security and Public Administration who asked Cho at the Blue House to open up the woman’s family history. Cho, the Blue House staffer, also knew the other Cho at the Seocho District Office, who was previously a close aide to Won Sei-hoon, the former chief of the National Intelligence Service. . . “No one [in the upper chain of command] at the Blue House was confirmed to have asked Cho [to ask for the illegal access],” said Lee. “It was Cho’s unilateral action.”

It is still uncertain but I am sure that Blue House officials are searching to determine just how many “Cho”s were involved in this conspiracy to derail the NIS electioneering investigation.

The Blue House! – Step by Step, Inch by Inch . . .

Like an old American Vaudeville gag routine – with each step and turn, each tick of the tock from the clock on the wall, someone is going to get burned and it looks like it may be someone from the Blue House that was found to be behind the Chosun Ilbo’s libelous attack on former General Prosecutor Chae in an illegal bid to stop the investigation into the NIS electioneering.

Seeing how Saenuri Dang is looking more and more like they are going to be found behind this case, maybe Chae can give them tips on how to deal with bad publicity.

update

 

More on the duplicity of a “Blue House Staff member”:

Seocho District official Cho Lee-je claimed that he exchanged six text messages with a Blue House staffer, in which the presidential office worker requested that he illegally access the personal information of a 54-year-old woman and her 11-year-old son – the alleged paramour and illegitimate son of former Prosecutor-General Chae Dong-wook.  . . (Cho’s) remarks are a direct contradiction to the presidential office’s initial claim that no one on its staff ever made such a request.

An NIS Link to the “Character Assassination & Libel” of Chae Dong-wook?

prosecutedThe JoongAng Ilbo reports that the very source of the leaked information regarding Chae Dong-wook, and the alleged son that caused his disgrace and subsequent resignation, came from an official working within the Seocho District Office that was a former aid of Won Sei-hoon, indicted director of the spy agency.  Won Sei-hoon is the one and the same NIS head that has been charged with running the online smear campaign against the Opposition Party candidate. (cite)  The information was used by the Chosun Ilbo in a thinly disguised bit of libel that had the effect of derailing Choe’s ongoing investigation into the electioneering activities of the NIS.

The Seocho District Office official, named “Cho”, had accessed the records of Chae Dong-wook several months in advance as well as being directly connected to former NIS director Won:

. . . Cho, 53, is known to be close to Won, who appointed him as his administrative secretary when he was the public administration and security minister in 2008 under the Lee Myung-bak administration. Cho followed Won to the NIS and moved to the Seocho District Office after Won’s stint as NIS chief ended in January this year.

The prosecutor’s office seems to have done some excellent work, as of late, especially when they are motivated by injustices committed against the function of their office, however this leaves us with the question of just who ordered Won to do what he did and why?

A Giant Twittering Flock Is Not Just A Few Birds

flockA few tweets and a few agents tweeting is not very important.

Choi Kyung-hwan, floor leader of the Saenuri Party would have the public believe this, as per October 24th:

. . . Prosecutors only confirmed 2,233 [out of the 55,000 tweets] as evidence of NIS interference in the presidential race,” Choi said. “Even among the 2,233 posts, only 6 percent of them were written by NIS agents and the remaining comments were retweeted messages [originally written by average people] (link).

However, in reality, as of today:

The nation’s main spy agency issued 1.21 million tweets, or postings on social networking site Twitter, to sway voters in last year’s legislative and presidential elections, the prosecution said yesterday. . . .

As Senior Prosecutor Lee Cheong-hoe describes this:

. . . The 26,550 initial postings are actual texts without counting overlapping messages. They were duplicated and reposted, raising the total to 1.21 million. . . The power of propagation is important in an election, so we believe all 1.21 million postings are illegal.”

The JoongAng Ilbo rightly describes this as “wholesale meddling” in the last election:

The huge number of tweets and retweets by the agents in the controversial case contradicts the top spy agency’s previous explanations that the posting of online messages was done individually by agents. . . One of the most shocking allegations is that the NIS used professional programs (software) for a massive circulation of tweets. The prosecution said they used a special program that enables them to disseminate hundreds of newspaper articles by automatically creating scores of new IDs. They also used a semi-automatic “tweet-back program” to circulate as many messages as possible . . . Now suspicion is growing over the possibility that the spy agency was systematically involved in giving a helping hand to President Park Geun-hye in the election.

Which means the NIS was using software designed to hack Twitter’s weaknesses so as to spawn new users IDs – exactly what spam gangs do to spread spam through out the internet.

So, why is it that the government and Saenuri Dang have credibility problems, still?

A Gentlemen’s Spanking Club?

justice spanking

Just when the chain of libel, reprimand and punishment was thought to have played out at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office, the senior prosecutor who sacked the prosecutor investigating the NIS agents that were involved in electioneering activities has sacked himself.

A senior prosecutor accused of exerting political pressure on a junior prosecutor investigating the spy agency’s election interference scandal tendered his resignation yesterday despite the prosecution’s official announcement that he did nothing wrong . . . Cho’s resignation came less than an hour after a junior prosecutor faced suspension for refusing to follow his directions of ordering arrests of National Intelligence Service agents outside the chain of command. (cite)

Senior Prosecutor Cho’s decision is based upon the actions of his subordinate prosecutor’s (Yoon Seok-yeol) decision to not follow procedure by warning the very people he would be raiding or arresting first since he was concerned that this could cause a rush to destroy or hide evidence (cite). Now, Yoon Seok-yeol, head of the Yeoju Branch of the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office will be indefinitely suspended for doing his job a little too well, all in the name of internal procedure. (cite)
All this probably would not have happened if the office of General Prosecutor were not subject to political pressure from the members of the majority political group that has a vested interest in what gets investigated.  This is a primary concern since illegal actions, instigated by group members, can remain unchecked and unpunished due to interference:

. . . The prosecution also said that they could not reveal the truth about whether Cho indeed pressured Yoon not to arrest the NIS agents because of political reasons. . . Allegedly, at a private dinner, Cho told Yun, “If we arrest the NIS agents, it would help the [opposition] Democratic Party,” and “Do that [arrest them] after I resign.” (cite)

The President has promised corrective action, in a vague sort of manner, regarding this issue (taken from the JoongAng Ilbo):

. . . (I will) “strictly” investigate the allegations (electioneering, etc., etc.) and promised that anyone found guilty will be punished . . . With only two months left in this year, it is very regrettable that urgent state affairs tied to past political issues remain pending, . . . as the prime minister emphasized days earlier, I will make sure various charges now in court and under investigation are clarified according to the law.

Though the president says she “did not personally do anything to arouse suspicions,” she can certainly choose what to see or what not to see since one can not be held accountable for what they don’t see or say.  I believe that this is a major distinction between criminal activities and political solutions and, since she is a politician, she will surely keep looking until she finds nothing.

Saenuri lawmaker warns Paris protesters, “I’ll make you pay.”

Saenuri Party lawmaker Kim Jin-tae is not happy that a small group of protesters turned up in Paris to welcome President Park to the city.

Kim, who is accompanying Park on her European tour, posted on his Facebook page today that he would make the protesters “pay a steep price.”

He also wrote that anyone whose blood didn’t boil upon seeing those protesters mustn’t be a Korean. Or South Korean, anyway.

He said he would have the Justice Ministry collect evidence such as photos, which he would turn over to the Constitutional Court.

A few dozen Korean residents of France and Korean exchange students held a candlelight protest in Paris during Park’s visit to the city on Nov 2—3. The protesters held a sign that read—in Korean and French—that President Park was not the legal president of Korea. I just hope they stay away from any chicken farms.

Kim is one of the lawmakers involved in the ruling party’s attempt to equate the government workers unions’ alleged political activity with that of the NIS. Mind you, I’m not a huge fan of public sector unions, and even less a fan of the bureaucracy organizing as a political interest group, but I do think there’s a difference between a union entering into a political alliance with a party and the national intelligence service attempting to subvert the political process with a clandestine online campaign.

The Party’s Over – Disbanding the United Progressive Party?

party_overThe Government has asked the Constitutional Court of South Korea Tuesday to disband the United Progressive Party.  The Saenuri Dang has long reviled the UPP and, now, after the arrest of Lee Seok-ki and subsequent revelations of UPP personnel participating in a campaign of anti-ROK activity, the majority-lead government now wishes to put an end to the UPP for good.

This is notable since this, like more than a few current events in government, is unprecedented, Per Choe SangHun:

. . . The government’s decision was adopted at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday and quickly endorsed by Ms. Park, who was on a visit to Europe. It is the first lawsuit of its kind. No political party in South Korea has been shut down by the government or a court decision since Syngman Rhee, South Korea’s dictatorial founding president, forced the closure of a leftist party in 1958.

As quoted, Lee Jung-hee, head of the UPP said:

This is a rude anti-democratic violation of the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of political activities, . . . this is a blatant and shameless political revenge. (cite)

Ms. Lee does have a point, considering the ambush tactics employed by the Chosun Ilbo against the former General Prosecutor, which bore the faint whiff of Saenuri Dang elements, as well as other incidents that mark a very volatile political environment from now on that may well lead to more radicle events due to a generally perceived curtailing of the political process and freedom within South Korea.

To read Choe SangHun’s excellent article, please go here.

PGH Speaks, Suh Chung-won’s Back, the FA-50 and Korea’s Gay-friendly but Xenophobic Youth

President Park says something about the NIS

Ahead of a tour to Europe, President Park speaks about the NIS allegations:

“I personally didn’t do anything suspicious, but suspicions have been raised that state agencies meddled in the election. I will clearly shed light on those suspicions without fail” and punish those responsible, Park said during a meeting with senior secretaries.

She also called on politicians—read: the opposition—to avoid causing public division and patiently wait for the legal system to do its job. Considering a) if it weren’t for politicians causing public division, it’s doubtful this issue would have even come to light, and b) the chicanery within the prosecution doesn’t instill much confidence in the legal system, I think it’s safe to say Park’s statement won’t shut the opposition up.

Some foreign correspondents offered their opinion on the NIS mess to the Korean Times. For instance:

“What President Park needs to do is open a bipartisan, cross-party investigation,” said Andrew Salmon, a Seoul-based journalist. “The prime minister’s pledge comes only halfway.”
[...]
“I think she needs to get the house in order and get rid of old-fashioned right wingers in certain institutions who may be thinking that they are helping her but in fact are a danger to the democratic process,” Salmon said.

As to why these right-wingers would operate in such fashion, he saw them stuck in a past mindset ― in the Cold-War perspective. “Such forces should leave the institution or start writing blogs.”

I’ll do my part by offering any stuck-in-the-past, Fifth Republic holdovers space on my blog, provided they first resign from their official posts.

2013 By-elections: Return of the Suh Chung-won

So, the Saenuri Party swept both by-elections. The key one was Hwaseong-A District, where Suh Chung-won won, and won big. Everything you need to know about Suh I shall reprint below:

The return to the political scene of heavyweight Suh, President Park’s long-time ally who served two separate prison terms for violating election-finance laws, may signal a wind of change in the leadership structure at the ruling Saenuri Party.

Ugh.

He is also expected to present a challenge to Representative Kim Moo-sung, who has been building his clout in the party and has recently emerged as one of the strongest candidates for the next presidential race. Kim is highly likely to run for the party chairmanship in a party convention scheduled for next year.

Party insiders say Kim is remote from the president, who has strong confidence in Suh because he is less politically ambitious and more loyal.

Double ugh.

The FA-50 Is a Good Plane. But It’s Not an Easy Sale

Will anybody buy the FA-50? That’s what the boys and girls at War is Boring ask (HT to Geek Ken):

Nonetheless, at $35 million a pop, the FA-50 is a bargain for the capabilities it offers. Plus the aircraft has operating costs that are a fraction of that of other fighters—even something as small and comparatively low-cost as a JAS-39 Gripen. For that relatively low price, a country gets an aircraft that has much of the performance of a full-sized fighter — a 75-percent solution.
[...]
But as impressive as the FA-50 is, especially for its price, the small fighter faces an uncertain future. “The problem isn’t the plane — they have designed one of the best lightweight fighters in years,” says Richard Aboulafia, an analyst at the Teal Group. “The problem is the market.”

The market has shifted in over the years. Countries that used to buy light fighters such as the F-5 — Turkey, for one — have moved on to more expensive aircraft like the F-16. But other nations have fallen upon hard times and have not been able to purchase modern fighters in decades — Argentina, for example. “The market has kind of bifurcated into haves and have-nots,” Aboulafia says.

Now, Korea did sign earlier this month an MOU with the Philippines to export a dozen FA-50s. What make that sale even MORE interesting is that Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun—quoting multiple Korean officials—reports that Seoul made that deal over the objections of the Chinese, who asked Korea not to sell the fighters to the Philippines.

Koreans Grow More Conservative. Young Koreans Least Homophobic, Most Xenophobic

The Dong-A Ilbo and The Asan Institute for Policy Studies conducted a poll of attitudes in Korea, yielding some interesting results. Up to last year, self-identified progressives outnumbered self-identified conservatives by about 10 percentage points, but this year, centrists (41.2%) and conservatives (32.7%) outnumbered progressives (26.1%). In particular, the percentage of self-identified conservatives grew by 9 percentage points among those in their 20s and 11 percentage points among those in their 60s.

A researcher at the Asan Institute said the drop in support for progressives was largely thanks to support for Park’s strong response to North Korean provocations soon after she took office, late President Roh’s statements about the NLL, and the whole UPP/Lee Seok-ki fiasco.

Meanwhile, conservatives are growing more conservative and progressives more progressive. Slightly more Korean feel the government should focus more on growth than distribution, but conservatives and progressives responded to this quite differently. Conservatives also tended to more heavily favor limits on personal freedom for the public interest—not exactly good news for you classical liberals out there.

Even more interesting—especially for some readers—is that it was young respondents in their 20s that revealed the highest degree of xenophobia. Some 23.9% of respondents in their 20s said they disliked foreigners living in Korea, the highest of any age group. Respondents in their 30s were the least xenophobic, with just 16.1% saying they disliked foreigners living in Korea.

Likewise, 31.3% of respondents in their 20s agreed that foreign laborers were making a mess of Korea’s social values, 10 percentage points higher than the 21.5% for the survey as a whole. This was followed by 21.6% for those in their 50s and 60s and 19.1% for those in their 30s. Only 15.3% of those in their 40s agreed with the statement. Furthermore, 35.1% of those in their 20s said that multicultural families were raising the level of social instability and complicating social unity.

That said, those xenophobic 20-somethings are not equal-opportunity in their hate. They especially dislike immigrants from China and the Philippines, but they are actually less adverse to immigrants from the United States and Japan than those of other age groups, and especially those in their 60s. This is believed to be the result of discomfort resulting from the growth in the number of Chinese students studying in Korea and concern about crimes committed by foreign laborers like the Oh Won-chun murder. Also believed to be at play is the feeling that foreigners are stealing jobs at a time when it’s difficult to find work.

Koreans still don’t like gays, though. Some 78.5% of respondents said they didn’t like homosexuals, although this number has come down year-to-year. That said, 42.5% of respondents in their 20s said they didn’t dislike gays, as opposed to only 8.3% of respondents of in their 60s. Some 53.0% of respondents in their 20s said same-sex marriage should be legalized, while only 7.6% of those in their 60s believed so. Interestingly, there was little ideological difference on the question of homosexuals—84.9% of conservatives and 70.3% of progressives disliked gays.

As for abortion, 55.3% of respondents said they believed abortions should be permitted only when the life of the mother is threatened. Only 29.9% said abortion should be left up to the mother’s choice, and even fewer (14.8%) said it should be banned outright. Younger respondents tended to support the permitting of abortion, while older ones did not. As with homosexuality, the numbers did not change much according to ideology, with conservatives and progressives responding similarly.

Flavour of the Month Addendum-addendum – A Cherry Is Found

Since scary stories are perfect for Halloween, we now hear that North Korea meddled in 2012 election, NIS claims (cite). Per Representative Suh of the Saenuri Dang:

“It is confirmed that the North actively used social network services to criticize the ruling party and its candidate, and influenced the presidential election, . . . The National Intelligence Service had no choice but to counter such moves.”

However as the opposition party points out . . .

“It is nonsense for him to argue that the NIS deserved to intervene in the presidential election because the North had done so,”

I am reminded of the last Bush Administration’s use of 9/11 to justify a host of intrusive measures into the daily lives of Americans, under the auspice of countering terrorism.  Would the use of the DPRK as a bogeyman serve the same use as the terrorism bogeyman did for the Bush Administration in their misadventures in Iraq and elsewhere?

Flavour of the Month Addendum – A Topping of Sprinkles

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won has promised to get to the facts behind the NIS Electioneering and the subsequent assassination of prosecutors.  His reason why people should not be so upset? – . . . continued confusion over the issue, already under investigation, “won’t help the national economy.” (cite)

Of course, it’s the economy that’s the problem.

Senior Prosecutor Sacks Prosecutor Investigating NIS Agents

The special investigation into NIS electioneering has taken yet another twist.  The senior prosecutor in the Office of the Prosecutor has dismissed Yoon Seok-yeol, the chief prosecutor of the special investigation team looking into the National Intelligence Service’s (NIS) alleged interference in the 2012 presidential election.  This came shortly after the prosecutor arrested three NIS agents that were implicated in an attempt to unduly influence the last presidential election by using over 400 twitter accounts (cite).  There seems to be more concern that the NIS electioneering activity was far more extensive than originally thought:

. . . According to opposition officials, Yoon’s team suspected that the NIS under its former head Won Sei-hoon disseminated over 50,000 online comments on Twitter and other social network services to support the then ruling Saenuri Party candidate Park Geun-hye. (cite)

After Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook was basically forced to quit by the libelous drive-by character assassination of the Chosun-Ilbo, the prosecutor that took over investigation of the NIS decided to proceed with the arrest and questioning of the NIS agents without the prior approval of his superior:

. . . the chief investigator (Yoon) did not trust the top brass when he decided to ignore the standard operating procedure (and arrest the NIS agents without telling his superior). Instead, he may have believed they would thwart his investigation into the spy agency’s alleged online smear campaign if he reported his plan to widen the investigation and arrest the three NIS officials. Their alleged use of Twitter in the campaign against the opposition candidate was a new finding from the investigation that had started several months before, but a news report (?) claimed that he did report his plan to a senior prosecutor in the line of command, and that he decided to take action on his own when the senior prosecutor continued to sit on his proposal to arrest the NIS officials. The chief investigator put his career as a prosecutor on the line when he decided to arrest the officials without obtaining official approval. If past experience is any guide, it seems to be a matter of time before he is pressured to resign as a prosecutor. (cite)

Kim Han-Gil Chairman of the Democratic Party has another theory why Yoon arrested the NIS agents without giving notice first:

. . . “Yoon believed that the NIS officials would destroy evidence if he gave prior notice to the agency, which sounds reasonable,” said Rep. Kim Han-gil, the DP chairman. “The Park government seems to be doing everything to cover up the truth.” (cite)

There is now concern that the Cyber Warfare Command – run by South Korean military – also engaged in pro-Saenuri Dang posting in an attempt to smear the DP candidate (cite).

You will notice the lack of Chosun Ilbo links on this matter as well because there are none. (update: now there is one after this thread was posted).

 

update

As per the JoongAng Ilbo today, this quote:

. . . “I told him that he must follow the legal procedure,” said Jo Yeong-gon, head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office and Yun’s supervisor. . .“but he refused to do so and told me, ‘The Justice Ministry would never allow me to do that.’” (from phone interview)
The NIS protested the arrest of its agents to the prosecution. Yun finally released the three at about 9 p.m. on the day of the arrest, and was dismissed from his position as leader of the probe the following day.
“If a prosecutor ignores the procedures of notification to superiors, he could arrest whomever he wanted,” said Lee Jin-han, a senior prosecutor at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office. (cite)

Right . . .

update

The JoongAng Ilbo writes of Yoon’s motivations in not following strict procedure by warning suspects (NIS) that need to destroy evidence quickly before they are raided:

. . . Although Yun had an arrest warrant issued by a local court on Oct. 16, he apparently should have reported his arrest plan in advance to his superiors, the justice minister and the head of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. Under the current law, arrests of spy agency officials require that additional step, which Yun did not take, however, Yun claimed at the hearing yesterday that he did follow appropriate internal steps, alerting his superior, Jo Yeong-gon, the head of the Seoul District Prosecutors’ Office, of his plans.

“On Oct. 15, I visited [Jo’s house],” Yun said during his testimony. “I brought my report on the investigation and briefed [him on my plans].” Jo, who also testified at the hearing, denied that it was an official notification and claimed Yun authorized the arrests himself. “We just had a casual, private conversation,” Jo said. “It was not an official notification. We were just having dinner, [and then] Yun suddenly showed me his report. I just told him to ‘review’ the report and returned it.”

Yun went on to say that his investigation was under pressure from the beginning.“At the beginning of this investigation, I had [a lot of] trouble because of external pressure,” Yun refuted, without mentioning the parties responsible. When lawmakers asked whether Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-an was one of the people who exerted pressure on his investigation, Yun replied, “I think he was.” Yun also argued that Jo dissuaded him from arresting the NIS officials because he was afraid of being criticized by the ruling party (cite).

So what does it mean when even “talented” prosecutors feel they need to resort to unusual methods to do their job?

The Cyber Warfare Command (part of the South Korean military) appears to have been involved in the same twitter-gate activities, at the same time:

Democratic Party Representative Jin Sung-joon said yesterday in an MBC radio interview that his party had obtained additional evidence regarding the postings by the cyber unit officials, which he said the party will release if the military’s investigation proves inadequate.
“What has been revealed is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Jin. “The investigation will show that this is an organized incident,” he added, rather than individuals acting on their own to make political posts. “We have many materials to support this.” He claimed the DP’s evidence shows that the Cyber Command agents also “re-tweeted comments posted by the NIS agents.” (cite)

Meanwhile, all this talk of accountability and due process of law has fallen upon deaf ears since accountability could possibly threaten other things:

We have [been continually hovering] over the issue of the presidential election,” Saenuri Chairman Hwang Woo-yea, said. “We can’t do this anymore. We should move on to the politics for state affairs.”

update
Choe Sang-hun has added a related article, in the NY Times, about the Prosecutor’s Office raiding the South Korea’s Cyberwarfare Command on Tuesday due to four of its officials having posted political messages online last year:

Last week, opposition lawmakers alleged in the National Assembly that the military’s secretive Cyberwarfare Command had carried out a similar online campaign, separately or in coordination with the spy agency, to help sway public opinion in favor of Ms. Park before the Dec. 19 election. The Defense Ministry, On Tuesday, confirmed that four cyberwarfare officials had posted political messages, but it quoted them as saying they had acted on their own.

Of prosecutor Yoon, Choe notes that:

. . . Mr. Yoon was removed from the investigation last week after his team detained three intelligence agents and searched their homes. He said his team had collected more evidence of the spy agency’s online campaign: 55,700 messages, posted or reposted by intelligence agents, that praised Ms. Park or disparaged her opposition rivals ahead of the December election. One of them called Mr. Moon, the main opposition candidate, a “servant” of North Korea and Ahn Cheol-soo, an independent who supported Mr. Moon, “a woman in men’s clothes.”

As with Prosecutor General Chae, it seems that libel is an operational tactic for today’s leading political party, meanwhile Cho Young-Kon, head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, yesterday submitted a request to the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office to investigate him after a junior prosecutor who worked for him (Yoon) dropped the bombshell revelation about the investigation of the National Intelligence Service’s alleged online smear campaign against the losing candidate in last December’s election. (cite)

How can there ever be an investigation, such as this, if the very parties that are under investigation are in control of the government!?  As said one senior prosecutor about this conflict of interest, “When an issue is politically sensitive, the leader of an investigation always clashes with a high-ranking prosecutor who cares about its political impact,” (cite)

President accepts Chae Dong-wook’s resignation

The Chosun Ilbo wins, at least for now:

President Park Geun-hye on Saturday accepted the resignation of the country’s top prosecutor embroiled in a scandal involving an alleged illegitimate son, the presidential office said.

President Park accepted the resignation by Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook, who allegedly fathered a son in an extramarital affair in 2002, on concerns that a prolonged absence of a top prosecutor is feared to hamper operations of the prosecution, according to an official at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

Chae offered to resign on Sept. 13, a week after the country’s largest-circulation daily Chosun Ilbo raised such allegations in its report. He denied the allegations, but said he was resigning as they would make it difficult for him to carry out his duties as chief prosecutor.

“President Park had wanted Chae to reveal the truth by himself and cooperate with a probe (into the scandal). But he did not,” senior presidential press secretary Lee Jung-hyun told reporters.

This is after the Justice Ministry reported that it had collected enough evidence to suspect the allegations were true.

More on this later.

UPDATE: This day gets better and better for the Chosun Ilbo—Chae has decided to drop his suit against them.

Character Assassination & Libel – A Disturbing Trend in Korean News Reporting?

prosecutedMost people have heard the phrase about hammering down the nail that sticks out.

What happens when the offending nail is the chief prosecutor for the nation?

Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook has just now been accused in the leading conservative newspaper, the Chosun Ilbo, of fathering a son, out of wedlock. Why would this be newsworthy, if true? To discredit a prosecutor that has had the temerity to question the role of the NIS in illegally exerting influence in the last presidential election?

Possible but, according to one article in the MK Business News, Prosecutor General Chae is also the man responsible for going after the illegal stash of money that Chun Doo-hwan had hidden away within his family circle:

. . . the prosecution (Chae) armed with the `Act on collecting Chun Doo-hwan’s punitive fine’ and public support ultimately led the Chun family to unveil a plan to pay the remaining fines by intimidating that the Chun family would all be subject to prosecution.
After the related ruling came out in 1997, the task has faced many bumpy roads. The issue of fine collection has resurfaced after Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook took office. (link)

Could this mean that Prosecutor General Chae has been overzealous in his role as chief prosecutor and has made certain old-school power brokers angry by directly threatening their interests?

I certainly can not answer the question,  but it is interesting that Prosecutor Chae has demanded a retraction from the Chosun Ilbo and has announced that he is willing to take a DNA test to prove that he is not the father of the child in question. Chae also is to demand a correction from the Chosun Ilbo for incorrect, if not libelous reporting.

I would ask – though we are still trying to determine who is responsible when a government agency (NIS) interferes in an election, who is responsible when a newspaper decides to discredit a prosecutor who is trying to do his job for the welfare of the nation?

update

It is now Chief Prosecutor Chae’s turn to embarrass the Chosun Ilbo and maybe, some other unknown member of the current administration:

. . . “We decided to file a lawsuit because the Chosun hasn’t taken any action, even though we asked them on Monday to publish a correction,” said Koo Bon-seon, the spokesman of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. “To resolve the matter, we decided to take the issue directly to court instead of going through the Press Arbitration Commission.”

. . . The Chosun Ilbo’s Sept. 6 edition mentioned the boy’s certificate of family relationship, his residence address and the specific date that he left Korea for schooling in New York. A later edition claimed that school records named the boy’s father,” two Democratic Party legislators said at a press conference. “That information can’t be obtained without cooperation from government officials. Handing over such information to another person is subject to criminal punishment”. (link)

Considering his personal character and drive, maybe Chae Dong-wook should run for president, in the future.

update

Chief General Prosecutor Chae has resigned his position stating that he would continue his suit against the Chosun Ilbo:

Today, I am relieving myself of the heavy responsibility of prosecutor general . . . ” (link)

According to Yonhap News:

. . . The resignation came shortly after the justice minister ordered an inspection of the case, saying there was an “urgent need to promote stability of the prosecution office and to reveal the truth as soon as possible.”

It marked the first time that a justice minister has ordered an inspection into the country’s top prosecutor over a scandal involving a personal matter.

Perhaps the justice minister’s unprecedented entrance into this affair was a sign from the highest levels of government that it was time for General Prosecutor Chae to leave.  Though I am not a fan of the Korea Times, their comments on the tactics of the Ministry of Justice is telling:

. . . quite a few Koreans suspect this might be a joint scheme of those in the core of power and the conservative newspaper to drive out this disobedient prosecution head.
The seed for his resignation after just five months in office was sown when he first caused friction with Cheong Wa Dae over the prosecution of state spies who allegedly meddled in elections. Chae pushed ahead with indicting a former head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), in defiance of opposition from justice ministry, for directing NIS agents to conduct a smear campaign against opposition candidates in last year’s presidential election.
When Chae initially pushed back outside pressure by volunteering to take a genetic test and prove the Chosun Ilbo story wrong, the power elite seems to have decided to use the “inspection card,” depriving Chae of his authority and making the prosecution dysfunctional. Otherwise, it is hard to understand why the justice minister couldn’t wait until how the proposed DNA test pans out.
This page, along with most other Koreans, hope these presumptions are wrong, as we don’t want to see the nation’s democracy go back decades ago to when leaders used the state spy agency for political maneuvering. For any faithful news watchers, it was evident that the NIS, to get out of the biggest crisis the state spy agency is in because of unwarranted meddling in domestic politics, has made a series of “revelations,” ranging from the disclosure of the records of the 2007 inter-Korean summit to the latest spy ring accidents involving a leftist lawmaker.
It is also hard not to point out, as one in the same profession, the way the Chosun Ilbo reported this case: the self-imposed most influential paper neither provided any plausible grounds for its allegation nor confirmed its contents before reporting, let alone giving Chae an opportunity for a counterargument, like some irresponsible tabloids.
Two of the biggest victims of this third-rate drama will be the mother and son, whose private lives have been brutally exposed to the public gaze. It is another sad reminder of how the institutions of political power, including arrogant media outlets, can trample on basic rights of powerless individuals to pursue quiet lives ― and the urgent need to reform these agencies by the people’s power. (link)

update

Now President Park has refused to accept the resignation of Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook, a senior official said Sunday:

 . . . “The resignation has not been accepted,” senior presidential press secretary Lee Jung-hyun told reporters. “Revealing the true should come first.” . . . A presidential aide also said that Chae’s case is not about the prosecution’s independence, but about ethics of a public official. (link)

The presidential aide completely missed the point of this issue, which is not about the PG’s ethics or independence – which were never in question before he investigated the NIS – but why has this libel been printed in a major newspaper with ties to the Saenuri Dang, at this very time?

The deputy chief of the internal inspectors’ office, Kim Yun-sang, also resigned Saturday in protest of the justice minister’s order that an outside prosecutor be named to investigate Chae.  The Deputy Chief is also quoted as criticizing the Minister:

. . . He is a bad leader who has completely failed to fight against political influences, and who failed to protect the chief of the senior investigations agency. It is also insane that the ministry didn’t consider using the prosecution’s own inspection headquarters for this work. I heard about the investigation from the news media, not from the ministry or from the prosecution organization. Such a process is unacceptable and doesn’t usually occur. (link)

 This is still unfolding and will be interesting to see just how the President plays this issue now since too many people are not going to let this issue and the NIS affair die quietly.

Chun Doo-hwan finally decides to pay

The disgraceful episode may finally be coming to an end:

The family of disgraced former President Chun Doo-hwan have finally decided to pay the remainder of his massive fine for corruption in office, bringing to an end a 16-year staring contest with the authorities.

Chun still owes W167.2 billion (US$1=W1,086) of the W220.5 billion fine imposed by the Supreme Court in 1997 and has spent more than a decade living in luxury while claiming to be flat broke.

A lawyer representing the Chuns on Monday said the ex-president’s eldest son Jae-kook (54) will announce the payment plan at the Seoul Central Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday afternoon.

Couldn’t we just skip the fine and execute the guy as originally decided?

Chun is reportedly planning to sell his own house to pay the fine. I hope Baekdamsa still has a room for him.

The family plans to issue an apology soon for the 16-year delay, which will undoubtedly prove amusing.

Needless to say, there was much celebration at the Hankyoreh. Well, gloating, actually—they’re taking credit (and probably rightfully so) for the reporting that got him to pay.

What galls me the most about Chun is that the guy should have been grateful simply to be alive. In case anyone has forgotten, here’s the list of what he was convicted of:

Leading an Insurrection, Conspiracy to Commit Insurrection, Taking Part in an Insurrection, Illegal Troop Movement Orders, Dereliction of Duty During Martial Law, Murder of Superior Officers, Attempted Murder of Superior Officers, Murder of Subordinate Troops, Leading a Rebellion, Conspiracy to Commit Rebellion, Taking Part in a Rebellion, Murder for the Purpose of Rebellion, as well as assorted crimes relating to bribery.

Paying his fine was the very, very least he should have done to begin atoning for what he did. John Profumo spent the rest of his life cleaning toilets and doing charity work in the East End of London, and all he did was bang a floozy who was also banging a Soviet agent. I have no idea what Chun learned at Baekdamsa, but whatever it was, it clearly didn’t stick.

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