More NIS abuses surface during leadership tenure of Won Sei-hoon

Posted on : 2017-09-12 16:20 KST Modified on : 2017-09-12 16:20 KST
The agency was revealed to have actively marginalized artists viewed as left-wing
Former President Lee Myung-bak (L) speaks with the now-imprisoned former NIS Director Won Sei-hoon
Former President Lee Myung-bak (L) speaks with the now-imprisoned former NIS Director Won Sei-hoon

During the presidency of Lee Myung-bak, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) carried out a sweeping operation to marginalize artists and cultural figures who were critical of the government and provided “daily VIP reports” to the Blue House, the NIS Committee for Reform and Development has learned. It remains to be seen whether the prosecutors’ investigation will lead to Lee himself.

On Sept. 11, the committee, chaired by Jeong Hae-gu, was briefed on these and other results of an investigation into silencing forces critical of the government in the arts and culture during the Lee administration. The briefing was given by a task force reporting to the committee which is dedicated to ending deep-rooted vices in the government agency. The committee recommended that the prosecutors investigate former NIS director Won Sei-hoon and former NIS Strategy Coordination Chief Kim Ju-seong for abusing their authority according to the National Intelligence Service Act.

Documents provided by the NIS Committee for Reform and Development show that after Won took office in Feb. 2009, he frequently ordered the NIS to take steps to counter and marginalize influential figures and groups in the fields of art and culture. The justification given for pressuring these figures and groups was that they were “besmirching the honor of the president with ‘verbal terrorism’” and “spreading mistrust by producing left-leaning videos.”

As a result, these documents show, the NIS designated 82 figures in five categories as being targets for suppression and pressured them in a variety of ways. These figures included the writers Lee Oi-su, Jo Jung-rae and Jin Joong-gwon; the actors Moon Sung-keun, Myeong Gye-nam and Kim Gyu-ri (formerly known as Kim Min-sun); the film directors Lee Chang-dong, Park Chan-wook and Bong Joon-ho; the TV celebrities Kim Mi-hwa, Kim Je-dong and Gim Gu-ra; and the singers Yoon Do-hyun, Shin Hae-chul and Kim Jang-hun.

It turns out that the NIS not only arranged tax audits of the entertainment companies to which these celebrities belonged but also engineered the reassignment of broadcasting staff who produced programs that featured them, blocked them from becoming candidates for the chairs of international film festival committees and even meddled in the selection of the winners of the broadcasting awards by asking for these figures to be dropped from the competition. Kim Mi-hwa, for example, was removed from the popular radio program “The World and Us” on the orders of then-MBC president Kim Jae-cheol.

A number of officials at the Blue House, including the Senior Secretary for Civil Affairs, the Senior Secretary for Public Relations and the Secretary for Executive Management, gave orders in Aug. 2010 to “determine the current activities of left-leaning celebrities and matters to consider,” and the NIS obliged by providing briefings including the “VIP daily briefing” and “material requested by BH,” the NIS Committee for Reform and Development said. “VIP” refers to the president, and “BH” to the Blue House.

Under orders given by Won in Mar. 2010, the NIS drafted a document called “MBC normalization strategy and implementation plan,” which proposed using the appointment of Kim Jae-cheol as MBC president to reshuffle the staff and to eliminate “biased programs,” investigators also learned.

Having confirmed that a document aimed at intimidating Seoul mayor Park Won-soon that was reported by the press in 2013 was drafted by the NIS under Won and used in psychological operations, the NIS Committee for Reform and Development recommended that the prosecutors investigate Won and others for violating the National Intelligence Service Act’s ban on political interference.

By Kim Bo-hyeop, staff reporter

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