Korean Spy Agency Accused of Influencing Presidential Election


A major scandal brews over the possible role of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), the Korean equivalent of the CIA, in the December 19th, 2012, election that saw the ascendance of Park Geun-hye, the daughter of a former military dictator, as the first female president of the country.

On December 11th, the main opposition Democratic United Party staff stormed a studio apartment in Seoul belonging to a female agent of the NIS, a 29-year-old woman identified only by her surname, Kim. They accused her of running a cyber campaign to smear their presidential candidate, Moon Jae-in. After a dramatic stand-off that lasted overnight, the police issued a preliminary report to tentatively absolve Ms. Kim of any crime just four days before the general voting.

But more than a month after Ms. Park won the election as a candidate of the governing Saenuri Party, the incident is again at the forefront of Korean politics, possibly undermining her mandate even before she takes her oath as the country’s next top leader. First, as reported exclusively on January 28th by the Joongang Ilbo, one of the three main conservative newspapers, Ms. Kim stated to the police that her responsibility at the NIS had been to monitor pro-North Korean activities on a popular internet forum, Oneul ui Yumeo (Today Humor).

The evidence submitted by Ms. Kim to the police appeared to legitimize her work and diminish the Democratic United Party’s credibility, showing that she had documented posts written by individuals known for their subversive attitude toward the South Korean state and for praising the North Korean leadership. It also showed that the same posts gained a prominent display on the site due to the support (expressed using an ‘I agree’ function) of groups or people using IP addresses located outside the Korean soil. She denied any involvement in activities related to the presidential election.

Yet in an explosive new analysis of Ms. Kim’s work online by the main liberal daily, The Hankyoreh, her accounts are being called into question. A close examination of her activities has revealed that she published numerous posts and commented on many others on the site, all in order to denounce the opposition presidential candidate and party and promote the policies of the outgoing conservative president, Lee Myung-bak. All of it took place during regular work hours in the four-month period leading up to the December 19th election. The scandal has also cast suspicion on the NIS itself, Ms. Kim’s employer, as systematically manipulating public opinion in order to orchestrate a particular electoral result. The police, too, appears complicit in the cover-up by hastily vouching for the legitimacy of Ms. Kim’s work during the pre-election press briefing.

While the competition over how to shape the public perception of the scandal is being fiercely fought by ideological opponents in the media world, the Hankyoreh analysis has won broad support from online Korean readership expressing both incredulity and rage at what is perceived to be a gross moral failure of state apparatus.


From The Hankyoreh:

[EXCLUSIVE] Female Spy Lied That She ‘Worked Only to Find NK Sympathisers’

Analysis of Activities by Female NIS Agent on Oneul ui Yumeo

11 Different IDs Used

Attacks on Opposition Presidential Candidate and Assemblymen

Speaking out in Favor of Naval Base on Jeju Island

All Activities during Work Hours between Monday and Friday

Difficult to See as Personally Motivated

Systematic Manipulation of Media Possible

Ms. Kim (29), an employee of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) testified to the police on the 25th of January that ‘my responsibility is to trace pro-North Korean writings on Oneul ui Yumeo.’ But according to investigation by this newspaper, Ms. Kim published writings favorable to the governing Saenuri party, its presidential candidate Park Geun-hye, and the current government, between August 28th and December 11th of last year. She also expressed support for and opposition to writings by other users for the same purposes. This is far from ‘tracing pro-NK writings.’

Ms. Kim used 11 different IDs to write a total of 91 posts, among which 10 criticised the opposition Democratic Party presidential candidate and assemblymen, and 25 defended the government and the ruling party on matters such as the controversial Four Rivers rehabilitation project and the construction of a naval base on Jeju Island.

Even so, the police and the NIS have downplayed and denied this fact. The Suseo branch of the Seoul Metropolitan Police which is investigating the case of Ms. Kim stated at a press briefing on January 3rd that ‘Although Ms. Kim had written posts and comments, they were not related to the presidential election, politics, or current affairs.’ Going one step further, the spokesman for the NIS denied during a phone call with this paper that ‘there is any basis for claiming that [Ms. Kim’s] writings have been found.’

Even though it has already been revealed that Ms. Kim both endorsed and attacked posts by other users, it appears that the NIS has strenuously denied the existence of posts by Ms. Kim for fear that it may fuel a conspiracy theory about her involvement in manipulating public opinion in the run-up to the presidential election on December 19th.

Now the question is whether the NIS had systematically orchestrated such activities. According to this paper’s investigation, several reasons made it difficult to see that Ms. Kim had acted on her own accord.

First, the timeline of Ms. Kim’s all online activities using the 11 identified IDs shows that she had done all her work between 9 am and 6:20 pm on weekdays, during what are regular work hours. No post was published on the weekend or on national holidays.

During the second week of October, immediately after Ms. Kim joined Oneul ui Yumeo, she wrote a total of six posts between Tuesday the 4th and Friday the 7th, stopping her activities on the weekend. It was the following Monday the 10th of September when her writing again appeared on the site. During the second weak of December, the period immediately before the presidential election, she wrote a total of 17 posts between Monday the 3rd and Friday the 7th. After taking a break for the weekend, she wrote additional 5 posts between Monday the 10th and the following day, until her apartment was discovered. The same timeline applines to her activities of endorsing or opposing posts by other users.

In addition, Ms. Kim repeatedly uploaded writings expressing a consistent position on certain special topics, such as the Jeju naval base construction, the Four Rivers rehabilitation project, and North Korea. For example, she used three different IDs between December 5th and 7th to criticise the Unified Progressive Party presidential candidate Lee Jeong-Hee for calling the South Korean government ‘the government in the south [of the peninsula].’

That Ms Kim uploaded 91 posts and expressed her opinion 244 times on other posts during work hours, used 11 different IDs, and consistently voiced viewpoints favorable to the government and the ruling party on a special range of topics goes to show that she was not simply expressing her personal opinions. Her work was deliberate and sustained.

Pyo Chang-won, a professor who resigned from the National Police Academy after arguing last December that Ms. Kim should be vigorously investigated, pointed out that “If an NIS employee was working to trace pro-NK writings, then she should have worked inside the NIS office where there is advanced equipment capable of tracing IP addresses. That she worked out of a personal studio where security was weak goes to show that she was engaged in another kind of activity and wanted to hide it from the outside world.”

It remains to be seen whether this kind of activity was conducted solely by Ms. Kim. She is an agent assigned to the psychological warfare unit under the NIS’s third division director. The NIS does not publicise the main duties or size of her unit. The Democratic Party contends that it has approximately 70 members, asserting that the psychological warfare unit may have been involved as part of its regular duties in a systematic operation to upload writings supporting the government and ruling party as well as attacking the opposition party.

It is believed that the police investigation alone will not be sufficient to prove the detailed nature of Ms. Kim’s crime and unravel the complex web of the scandal. The Democratic Party assemblyman Chung Cheong-rae, who is also the opposition party’s ranking member on the intelligence committee of the national assembly, said, ‘The main point is to determine whether Ms. Kim had acted in this way as part of her duty for the NIS, so we will ask about that at an intelligence committee meeting we are calling.’

Comments from Nate:


Unbelievable… How is it possible for an article like this to get buried on Naver…


What the Hankyoreh found, the police couldn’t. What a fair investigation. Now is the time to find all culprits and off their heads. Starting with the NIS employee and then all others who do the same work, and the director.


At least one thing is clear. Whenever that NIS employee opens her mouth, she lies.


This is a country? They issue an incorrect report about the violation of the electoral law five days before the election, and cause Moon Jae-in [the opposition candidate] to lose votes from the negative perception [of him]. What is the point of revealing [the truth] 50 days after the fact? Completely outrageous. It’s not like one can change reality.”


Mom, Bro~ I got a job at the NIS. ^^ Mom and Bro: So what do you do there??? Employee: I work part-time writing online comments for the powerful. ^^ Mom and Bro: Good for you, my daughter~ Call Mom and Bro if there is anything scary. Employee: OK. ^^


Ilbe parasites, ke ke ke ke ke. Having a mental breakdown? ke ke ke When someone disagrees, you just resort to ‘commie’ and other labels to foment regionalism, ke ke ke. You are not even worth the name of parasite, ke ke ke.


I should try writing comments in the style of Ilbe parasites, ke. Frankly I was a Park Geun-hye supporter, but this is just too much… I am disappointed, Park Geun-hye~, he he he.


Chuh-chuh, how is that a NIS employee ended up doing this kind of garbage, chuh-chuh. It should be thoroughly investigated.


If she was doing such legitimate work, the NIS should have responded the moment the police arrived, protecting the employee under its order and doing a briefing. Why didn’t they do anything? They left her in her studio for tens of hours to fend for herself… Forcible confinement? What forcible confinement when she locked herself [in her studio] and refused to come out even when she was told to again and again?


The Hankyoreh found and examined comments that even the police did not find!! Amazing~ Let’s get The hankyoreh reporters to investigate instead of incompetent policemen~


ke ke ke, It is right to critique North Korea. But attacking a particular candidate is not.


ke ke ke, why hide in a studio if you are so righteous, ke ke ke. Why monitor pro-North Korean activities outside the NIS? What is so secretive about this when you used 11 different IDs, ke ke ke?


Since the police has all the IDs belonging to the NIS female employee, all you have to do is compare them against this article? How interesting, ke ke ke. [Hankyoreh] didn’t just examine the IDs pointed out by other users of Oneul ui Yumeo, right? Since The Hankyoreh has put its neck out, the [police] investigating team should also put its out also. Let’s see who is at fault and bring out the axe, ke ke ke.


It’s time for Ilbe parasites to appeal to emotion now that they are losing on facts, ke ke ke. About how we should feel sorry for the young woman, ke ke ke ke ke ke.

Wonjong Silver Eun

I know that all the news articles right now are talking about the successful launch of the Naruho satellite, but an article like this shouldn’t get buried…

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