South Korea spy agency admits trying to rig 2012 presidential election
National Intelligence Service says it mobilised cyberwarfare experts to ensure Park Geun-hye beat rival and now president Moon Jae-in
South Korea’s spy agency has admitted it conducted an illicit campaign to influence the country’s 2012 presidential election, mobilising teams of experts in psychological warfare to ensure that the conservative candidate, Park Geun-hye, beat her liberal rival.
An internal investigation by the powerful National Intelligence Service also revealed attempts by its former director and other senior officials to influence voters during parliamentary elections under Park’s predecessor, the hardline rightwinger Lee Myung-bak.
Claims, now confirmed by the service, that it was behind an aggressive online campaign to sway voters is certain to add to public anger towards South Korea’s political system.
Park, who narrowly beat the current president, Moon Jae-in, to become the country’s first female president in the 2012 vote, is standing trial on corruption and abuse of power charges, and faces life in prison.
Media coverage of the scandal that led to her impeachment late last year revealed widespread collusion at the highest level of South Korean politics and business, and propelled Moon, a left-leaning liberal, to a landslide victory in May.
Moon, who was the target of a smear campaign by the NIS during his first, failed, run for the presidential Blue House in 2012, has vowed to reform the spy agency to prevent it from influencing future elections.
He has said intelligence officials should focus on foreign affairs, including countering the threat from North Korea.
The NIS’s in-house investigation found that its cyberwarfare unit formed as many as 30 “extra-departmental” teams comprising officials and internet-savvy citizens to upload posts in support of conservative politicians for two years in the run-up to the 2012 presidential vote.