Documents show government plan to subdue leftist Mayor of Seoul

The Hankyoreh, May 15 2013
Information acquired by the Hankyoreh shows evidence of illegal campaign by NIS to undermine Mayor Park Won-soon

Reports have surfaced revealing that the South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) has been involved in political scheming against Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. In addition to allegations that the NIS has taken part in manipulating popular opinion and interfering in politics online, the agency is now being accused of targeting specific political figures. This behavior is leading some to question the very existence of the NIS.

On May 14, the Hankyoreh acquired a report titled "The Leftwing Tendencies of the Mayor of Seoul's City Governance and How to Counter These Tendencies" which reveals that the NIS mobilized the ruling Saenuri Party (NFP), government agencies, civic organizations, and academics in an attempt to subdue Park. This document, which is believed to have been created by the NIS, shows how the agency has been taking part in a wide range of political activity not only online but in actual politics.

The document, which was created on Nov. 24, 2011, appears to have been composed by the department of domestic intelligence collection and analysis. This department is under the authority of the second deputy director of the NIS, who is in charge of South Korean domestic intelligence. The document outlines a plan to use constitutional institutions and councils for political schemes. The plan included measures such as employing audits by the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) to carefully review how the budget is being carried out and encouraging 28 opposition city councilors to rigorously review budget drafts brought forward by the city government. All of this was intended to stop Park Won-soon and the opposition from gaining more power.

The document also suggested involving the private sector in this wide-ranging plan to put pressure on Park. This part of the scheme involved using organizations of students' parents to encourage public discussion, using business-friendly organizations such as the Korean Employers Federation and the Federation of Korean Industries to create public opposition, politicizing various issues with the overall management of the city by publishing a series of media editorials and columns by prominent professors and pundits, and encouraging other organizations across the conservative spectrum to denounce Park's administration. In its explanation for the reason why it had been prepared, the report stated that since Park had come into office, his left-leaning and self-righteous management of the city, including the expansion of subsidized school lunches and the massive reduction in tuition charged at municipal universities, had not only corrupted the hearts of the people and undermined the stability of the national government but was also aiding the expansion of the opposition party's power base. "It is critical that we devise thorough ways to bring this situation under control," the report said.

The NIS's action to directly block the expansion of the opposition's power base and to participate illegally in the policy making of local government is a clear violation of the National Intelligence Service Act.

Of the plans outlined in the report, most of the measures involving conservative and civilian organizations releasing statements critical of Seoul and demonstrations that actually took place.

The document concludes that gradual, strategic measures must be taken, such as countering Park by collecting material that would be damaging to him until a certain level of public dissatisfaction with him had developed, then releasing those materials at the appropriate time.

The document also suggested plans for swaying public opinion. One plan was to gather information about the sponsorship Park has received and critical opinions from the business sector and release them to print and social media to keep these a hot topic. Another was to collect relevant material and publish it in the press and online when opportunities presented themselves to focus public attention on the inappropriateness of Park's behavior.

It is very likely that this online public opinion campaign was carried out by the former psychological warfare department that was under the authority of the third deputy director of the NIS. It is this department (now defunct) that is currently being investigated by the prosecution on suspicion of manipulating public opinion and interfering in politics during the December 2012 presidential election.

Part of the document indicates that it was to be distributed to "0-0, 2-0, 3-0." An unidentified employee at the NIS explained that these refer to the director of the NIS, the second deputy director in charge of domestic affairs, and the third deputy director in charge of North Korean affairs, respectively. If a report associated with interfering in domestic politics was also sent to the third deputy director, who deals with North Korean affairs, there is a strong likelihood that the online political activity related to Park was handled by the psychological warfare department.

In fact, 73 of the IDs on Today's Humor, a left-leaning website, that were found to be connected with NIS political activity also wrote posts critical of Park on the same site.

"We were unable to locate this report in our archives or our computing records," the NIS said. "It is possible that this report was not produced by the NIS." However, a source at the NIS said that confidential documents, those that are handed directly to the leaders of the agency, would not be found in the computing records.

"There is also the possibility that because of the sensitive nature of its contents, the report could have been destroyed immediately after it had been delivered," the source said. "In a more sensitive case, you wouldn't be able to find it in the archives, either."


By Jeong Hwan-bong, staff reporter


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