NIS directed right-wing groups pro-government propaganda activities

Posted on : 2016-04-26 16:12 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Intelligence agency has a long history of being co-opted to push the government’s right-wing agenda
Headquarters of the National Intelligence Service.
Headquarters of the National Intelligence Service.

Amid growing allegations about the source of funding for the Korea Parent Federation and its pro-government demonstrations, a prosecutors’ investigation had turned up evidence that South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) has been effectively orchestrating the activities of conservative groups since the administration of former president Lee Myung-bak (2008-2013). The evidence shows that the NIS has been involved not only in political advertisements that conservative groups have run in newspapers but also in their plans to hold one-person protests and to hand out pamphlets.

In a hearing on Apr. 25 in the trial of former NIS director Won Sei-hoon, the main culprit in the NIS online comment case (where the agency attempted to manipulate public opinion ahead of the 2012 presidential election), the prosecutors said that “An agent surnamed Park who was on the NIS’s psychological warfare team supported and supervised right-wing conservative organizations and right-wing youth organizations.” The case, which was reversed and remanded, is being tried by criminal division No. 7 at the Seoul High Court, under Hon. Kim Si-cheol.

According to statements made by the prosecutors in the hearing on Monday and trial records acquired by the Hankyoreh, there were seven conservative organizations that the NIS reached out to in a two-year period beginning in June 2011.

The NIS used these conservative groups to run newspaper advertisements and issue press releases that were favorable to the government and the ruling party. These advertisements and press releases criticized the Hope Bus at Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction in 2011, criticized proposals for free school lunches and free medical care and called for the disbandment of the Democratic Labor Party.

The NIS was also involved in one-person protests organized by these groups and even provided ideas about what slogans to put on placards. The NIS directly requested certain conservative newspapers to run stories on these activities, and after these stories were printed, agents from the NIS psychological warfare team spread them online.

The prosecutors said that the NIS was also an active supporter of right-wing youth organizations.

“It was confirmed that the National Intelligence Service proposed the slogan ‘We are proud young people of the Republic of Korea’ when a right-wing youth organization was being established. It also provided photographs for a right-wing youth organization to display in a patriotic photography exhibition,” the prosecutors said on Monday.

For their part, Hankyoreh reporters found that the NIS agent had sent emails providing advice about the formation of a right-wing group called the Korean Youth Organization in Mar. 2012, around the time the group was being set up. In June of the same year, an article about a photography exhibition hosted by this group was covered in a conservative news outlet.

“Examining the work that the NIS agent did shows that the NIS was involved both broadly and specifically in supporting and supervising right-wing and conservative groups not only in their online activity but also offline and in using the conservative media to manufacture public opinion,” prosecutors said.

Won Sei-hoon was indicted in June 2013 in connection with the NIS election interference scandal, and the lower court convicted him of violating the National Intelligence Service Act, sentencing him to two years and six months in prison, with the sentence suspended for four years.

After an appeals court also found Won guilty of violating the Public Official Election Act and bumped his sentence up to three years, Won was taken into custody. But this past July, the Supreme Court reversed Won’s conviction for violating the Public Official Election Act and sent the case back to the Seoul High Court, where it is currently being retried.

By Seo Young-ji, staff reporter

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