South Korea police probe possible election fraud

The Los Angeles Times, December 3 2011

REPORTING FROM SEOUL -- Probing political chicanery reminiscent of some banana republic nation (or perhaps the state of Florida circa 2000) South Korean authorities are investigating a case of alleged election fraud that appears to be designed to keep a ruling-party candidate in office.

Police say that an aide to a lawmaker for the nation's Grand National Party organized a widespread cyber attack to confuse voters trying to get to the polls on election day in late October.

The aide, who is in custody, reportedly hired three Internet technology workers to cause computer  breakdowns on a website designed to help voters find their polling stations.

Last month, Seoul residents elected a new mayor in a race that analysts called a crucial run-up to next year's presidential elections. Analysts predicted that low turnout would be an advantage to the ruling party's candidate.

Many South Koreans expressed shock over the apparent attempt by the ruling party to influence a crucial election.

The ruling-party lawmaker, Choi Ku-sik, has denied any knowledge of the scheme.

"Some say the suspect is my aide, but he worked as my chauffeur for one year and three months and not in my office," Choi said at a news conference Friday. "If the investigation reveals that I am part of this crime, I will immediately resign from my seat. I feel I have been struck by lightning under a clear sky."

In recent months, minority-party candidates have made strides in their attempts to defeat Grand National Party candidates, buttressed by growing support from younger voters weary of the ruling party's politics.

An information website run by an election watchdog was shut down for about two hours Oct. 26 because of the cyber attacks. The Korea JoongAng Daily reported Saturday that the 27-year-old aide persuaded three men from his hometown to use 200 computers to bombard the website in order to shut it down.

Police suspect that the men waged a similar attack on a website run by Park Won-soon, a minority-party candidate and eventual winner of the Seoul mayoral race. It was unclear if that website was shut down by the attacks. The three IT workers are in police custody.

An angry opposition party member called the ruling party "the incubator of foul play and corruption."

John M. Glionna


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