Former President Lee rejects charges of his role in NIS, Cyber Command scandal

Posted on : 2017-11-13 17:44 KST Modified on : 2017-11-13 17:44 KST
Characterizes investigations as “political revenge” that negatively impact national security
 demonstrators are demanding his arrest as part of the current administration’s campaign to eradicate deep rooted vices. (by Kim Myung-jin
demonstrators are demanding his arrest as part of the current administration’s campaign to eradicate deep rooted vices. (by Kim Myung-jin

Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said on Nov. 12 that he was “beginning to question” whether the Moon Jae-in administration’s efforts over the past sixth months to “eradicate deep rooted vices” were intended as “reform, venting, or political revenge.”

Lee’s message reads as a counterattack to calls for his investigation by prosecutors amid claims that he was behind an operation by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and Military Cyber Command to influence public opinion with internet posts ahead of elections.

Meeting with reporters that afternoon at Incheon International Airport on his way to Bahrain, Lee said the effort to address past misdeeds “not only divides public option but is also unhelpful in security and diplomatic terms at this crucial moment, and unhelpful at a time when the South Korean economy needs to be seizing opportunities.”

 staff photographer)
staff photographer)

“It is very difficult to build a country and make it prosper. But it’s easy to destroy one and send it into decline,” he added.

“I have a lot of feelings about the way conflicts and divisions in all areas have only deepened since the new administration arrived.”

Lee took particular aim at the widening net of a recent investigation into the NIS and Cyber Command for suspected political interference, including the internet posts.

“We’re facing a diplomatic and security crisis. It only endangers our security more when the military organization and intelligence agency organization are treated arbitrarily and unfairly,” he said. His remarks suggested the current administration’s attempts to address deep rooted vices was having a negative impact on national security – while at the same time signaling he plans to directly tackle former Minister of National Defense Kim Kwan-jin’s charges that he was behind the internet posting operation and the selection of civilian military employees to carry it out. When asked that day if he had even given direct orders for Kim to carry out the posts or other operations, Lee met the reporters with a tone of strong annoyance.

“Don’t ask ridiculous questions. That doesn’t even make sense,” he said.

Former Blue House Senior Secretary to the President for Public Relations Lee Dong-hwan similarly dismissed the claims.

“What government in the world would order internet messages to be posted? The President of the Republic of Korea does not have that kind of luxury,” he said, adding that Lee Myung-bak would “have the opportunity to give specifics in a conference shortly.”

The Blue House did not issue an official position on Lee’s remarks, but spokesperson Park Soo-hyun reiterated its basic position on the efforts to address deep rooted vices.

Former President Lee Myung-bak arrives at Incheon Airport for a trip to Bahrain on Nov. 12. Behind him
Former President Lee Myung-bak arrives at Incheon Airport for a trip to Bahrain on Nov. 12. Behind him

“President Moon [Jae-in] said at an invitational meeting with the leaders of four political parties on Sept. 27 that the eradication of deep rooted vices is ‘not about assigning responsibility to or punishing individual people, but about changing the very framework of unfair privileges.’”

But inside the Blue House, signs of displeasure were evident.

“Everyone thinks former President Lee’s remarks are absolutely shameless,” a Blue House source said.

“We think it’s important to remind him that this is not about political revenge. It’s a process of setting society straight.”

Reactions from politicians were mixed. The Democratic Party criticized Lee as a “former President who ordered the planning of illegal acts and incited evasions of the laws during his term and is now talking without a shred of conscience about ‘political revenge’ and rationalizing his illegalities.” The People’s Party said it was “brazen for former President Lee Myung-bak, the chief offender in the regression of democracy, to be talking about ‘political revenge.’”

In contrast, the Liberty Korea Party said the “extra-legal political retaliation the Moon Jae-in administration is carrying out in the name of ‘clearing away deep rooted vices’ needs to be stopped.” The Bareun Party also said the administration had “gone overboard” with its effort, adding that “we need to see what the courts decide now.”

By Jung Yu-gyung, Seong Yeon-cheol, and Kim Kyu-nam, staff reporters

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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