The Marmot's Hole

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Tag: NIS

Flavour of the Month – We Know Who You Really Should Vote for

On July 8, WikiLeaks released over 400 gigabytes of leaked data from Italian surveillance malware vendor Hacking Team, which included correspondence between officials from South Korea’s 5163 Army Division – a code name for the NIS – and the company about its remote control spyware system. The local intelligence office has been suspected of spying on civilians since the Park Chung Hee era, but due to such suspicions, it was unable to acquire the spyware systems necessary to infiltrate mobile devices for legitimate espionage activities…the NIS is obligated to clearly explain why it purchased the wireless monitoring device so discreetly and for what purpose it has been used. Since the agency did not obtain a court warrant, those kinds of surveillance activities are illegal. (more)

The NIS has a lot more going on than is in the newspapers too (backdoors into software (Kakao (?) and Samsung phones, etc.)

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.


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.

Spy Games

There’s now speculation about what President Park will do should is be learned that the United States bugged her phone. The Chosun Ilbo seems to think it did:

The U.S. government promised Korea to “review intelligence activities” after Seoul asked whether the National Security Agency wiretapped the Korean Embassy in Washington. This is seen as tantamount to an admission that it did.

“Seoul had demanded that Washington verify rumors about wiretapping and make its position clear,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tae-young said Tuesday. “The U.S. has said it understands allies’ worries and promised to review intelligence activities.”

Given Korea’s own forays—not always successful—into the realm of cloak-and-dagger skulduggery, I really don’t know what Cheong Wa Dae will say should it be confirmed that the NIS eavesdropped on them. A DP lawmaker, meanwhile, is claiming the US may have been peaking at Korea’s cards during the FTA negotiations.

On the other side of the ledger, Foreign Policy has run a piece on US concerns that South Korea may be stealing its weapons technology:

But just beneath that relationship’s surface is a growing unease. South Korea, one of America’s strongest partners in East Asia, is aggressively targeting U.S. advanced technology for its own use in a variety of Korean weapons programs, Foreign Policy has learned. From anti-ship missiles, electronic warfare equipment, torpedoes, a multiple-launch rocket system, and even components on a Korean-made Aegis destroyer, the United States is concerned about the uncanny resemblance those systems bear to American weaponry. Even the tanks Hagel watched on the range that day may be partial knock-offs: The Korean models have fire control systems that appear to be all-but-identical to the American versions.

Though the United States long has had systems in place to monitor technology-sharing with allies, the case with South Korea has become particularly acute in the last few years. As the United States pivots East and Asia’s once sleepy defense industries begin to awaken, it has quietly begun to scrutinize its technology-sharing relationships with such allies, conducting secret but robust “dialogues” — diplomatic-speak for a series of private exchanges on tech-sharing between the two countries — to ensure that American secrets stay that way.

This is particularly relevant at a time when Korea is considering the purchase of the F-35:

Right now, the dialogue between the two countries is focused heavily on the potential sale of the advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to the South Koreans. American officials are putting into place a strict security agreement to ensure that nothing is shared, either with the wrong people, or for use by a buyer of a Korean-made copycat for Korea’s own competitive purposes. The South Koreans are interested in the F-35, but their interest comes at the same time as South Korea’s bid to build its own stealth jet, raising bureaucratic eyebrows in the United States. It could be the equivalent of South Korea taking a fighter jet on a test drive, as it were, flying it around the corner to kick its tires, only then to return it to the dealership and say it’s not interested, but first looking under the hood and taking some pictures.

Some quarters of the Korean press claim US concerns are more about competition from Korea in the global arms market. Like US concerns about theft, I’m sure there’s some truth to that, too.

(HT to Wangkon)

Reforming the NIS

The Hankyoreh penned a decent editorial today on why the Lee Seok-ki case ironically demonstrates the need to reform the NIS.

For starters, it shows why the NIS should not be granted investigative powers. The reason usually stated for giving it investigative power is its specialized investigative capacity at a time of intra-Korean confrontation. Nothing about the Lee case, however, reveals a special investigative capacity—they got a tip from an informant. Moreover, the NIS has been busy making unreasonable applications of the law, irresponsibly making public facts about the crime (Marmot’s note: as opposed to irresponsibly reporting personal info about the informant?) and playing media games to influence public opinion. Or so says the Hankyoreh. Anyway, a good first step to NIS reform would be to make a clear divide between intelligence gathering (which the spooks do) and investigating (which the prosecutors/police do), a practice common in much of the world.

The case also demonstrated the greater need for public oversight and checks on the NIS.

Now that the ugly business of the Lee arrest is finished, perhaps the National Assembly will finally get back to the business of reforming the NIS to make it more accountable and democratic. That said, it appears some folk—and some newspapers—are more concerned with eradicating the UPP. Mind you, I think the UPP’s presence in the National Assembly is unsettling—the Dong-A Ilbo reports that the six UPP lawmakers have been strangely active in requesting materials from the Ministry of Defense, something I really hope USFK and US officials are aware of—but it seems at this stage, we really need to refocus on cleaning up the intelligence service.

Former NIS director called in for questioning

Seoul Central Prosecutors Office called in former NIS director Won Sei-hoon for questioning this morning regarding suspicions he directed NIS officials to interfere in last year’s presidential election.

Won is being accused by the Democratic United Party and civic groups of ordering agents to go online around the time of the presidential election to actively confront agit-prop by “pro-North Koreans” and engage in some agit-prop of their own in favor of major government projects like the Four Rivers and free trade agreements.

Over the weekend, prosecutors questioned another high-ranking NIS official over whether Won ordered and/or condoned illegal activity or received reports of said illegal activity and whether agents with the NIS psych-ops bureau participated in illegal activities in an organized fashion.

Female NIS agent was tracking pro-North Korean posters: police

Speaking of North Korea, women and the JoongAng Ilbo, the JoongAng reports that police have determined that the female NIS agent accused by the Democratic Party of engaging in illicit electioneering is actually involved in finding pro-North Korean activity on the Internet.

Police said the agent—identified by her last name of Kim—said she used her 11 IDs to monitor the website “Today’s Humor,” which had earned the NIS’s particular attention for its many pro-North Korean posts. Or so the report says. She said her main job was to track pro-North Korean posts, while her 90 or so “like” or “dislike” clicks were because posts either sucked or because they had to do with matters of personal interest, like entertainment and cooking. Her lawyer said about 1,000 posts related to Moon Jae-in got posted a day during the election period; of these, she would vote on about one a day. A violation of the election law this was not, he said.

According to the materials Kim submitted to police, there was some serious attempts by pro-North Korean types to drive opinion on the site in an organized way. I have no desire to translate the details.

So… perhaps there’s more to the NIS agent accusations after all

Seoul’s Suseo Police Station will once again summon for questioning today the NIS agent accused of conducting illegal electioneering.

Mind you, they’ve yet to discover evidence that she left any comments anywhere. But investigators have managed to confirm she did press “like” or “dislike” 288 times on 269 posts at a particularly website (which was apparently a progressively oriented humor site). Of these, 94 of the posts dealt with the election. And she did this using 16 IDs registered with emails accounts with Yahoo Korea, so no Korean ID numbers were used. To some, this reeks of an organized effort, although to Yours Truly, it seems more like your garden variety sock puppet.

Legal experts are not sure whether simply expressing support or opposition for something amounts to violating election laws. If the goal was simply to express an opinion, it might not be.

Nation Cannot Be Subject of Libel Suit: NHRCK

This is heartening: from the Korea Times:

The human rights commission concluded that the nation cannot be the subject of a libel suit.

In September of 2009, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) filed a defamation suit against human rights lawyer, Park Won-soon for damaging the reputation of the “state,” making the nation the plaintiff.

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) reached a conclusion that the state cannot be defamed and be the main body of a libel case in an inside report, Sunday.

Find the Spy!

Korea Beat reports that Seoul’s finest have arrested three, ahem, unification activists on charges of distributing North Korean revolutionary literature on orders from North Korean agents.

This news, naturally enough, might get you wondering. Are there North Korean spies in my neighborhood or office? Is my mother-in-law a North Korean agent? How would I know?

Well, your Uncle Marmot — and the National Intelligence Service (NIS) — is here to help.

You see, the NIS has been marking the upcoming 59th anniversary of the start of the Korean War with an online event that includes a Flash game where you, the resident of Korea, can learn how to identify the spy or leftist criminal.

In case you need help, the NIS game describes the following individuals as possible spies/leftist criminals:

  1. Someone who sits in an odd corner at a PC room or elsewhere, uses the Internet to post and spread inpure content, and then leaves in a hurry;
  2. People who spread false rumors at anti-American or anti-government rallies and encourage violent demonstrations;
  3. Someone who uses Kim Il-sung or Kim Jong-il as a game avatar while praising them;
  4. Someone photographing military or industrial facilities or smelling out security;
  5. People calling for unification using inter-Korean economic cooperation or family reunions as pretexts.

Needless to say, the Kyunghyang Shinmun is not amused.

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