Former spy chief and Lee government may face reinvestigation over NIS election-meddling scandal

Updated By on Aug 07, 2017, 09:00 am
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Former National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief Won Sei-hoon shows up at the Seoul Central District Court on July 24 for alleged intervention in presidential election./ Source: Yonhap News


By AsiaToday reporter Heo Gyeong-joon

The reinvestigation of the prosecution is on its way after it was revealed that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) had operated a cyber team so called "commentary troop" composed of civilians to manipulate public opinion during the Lee Myung-bak administration.

An internal taskforce, set up to reform the National Intelligence Service, revealed Thursday that the NIS under former chief Won Sei-hoon operated a cyber team comprised of outside people from May 2009 to December 2012. It was reported that the NIS set a policy to accuse the officials involved to the prosecutors as soon as the basic investigation is completed.

As the NIS is suspected of spending tens of billions of won and managing 3,500 civilians to intervene in politics and elections, prosecution and investigation request seem to be natural procedures.

Therefore, there is an overriding prediction in the legal circles on Sunday that many of the officials of the NIS, including former chief Won, and the Lee Myung-bak administration will be the target of investigation.

It's unlikely that Won operated a large team and a cyber team on his own judgment. It's practically impossible to build up thousands of people without the intervention of the "higher level" such as the Blue House.

If another prosecutorial probe over the NIS election-meddling scandal starts, the investigation is expected to be much tougher than before. If the NIS accuses the related parties to the prosecutors and hand over the internal data, the investigation will be conducted without a delay unlike the investigation in 2013.

A, a former prosecutor and now attorney, said, "The new government has been focusing to clean up deep-rooted irregularities. When the prosecution investigated the case in 2013, it systematically concealed the case by exercising external pressure. However, this time it's different. A large investigation team is expected to be set up to investigate the case thoroughly."

Although the prosecution claims that it will consider reviewing the related documents and investigating the case if the special taskforce requests for investigation, it is likely that investigations have already begun in fact.

As new facts related to the "commentary troop" are revealed, there will be a considerable impact on the final ruling of Won on Aug. 30. Once the prosecution secures the data from the taskforce, it is expected to focus on revealing additional charges against Won.

However, the amount of data is so massive and it is not clear whether the data found at this time will be meaningful in relation to former spy chief Won, so the prosecution is more likely to conduct another investigation separately, rather than making an additional investigation to modify the indictment.

Regardless of which way the prosecution chooses, reinvestigation is inevitable. Now all eyes are on how far the prosecution's investigation will go.

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