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Ex-president bridles at campaign of dirt digging

Sept 29,2017
Former President Lee Myung-bak responded bitterly Thursday to the Moon Jae-in administration’s attempt to dig up dirt from the past, calling it a “retrogressive attempt” destined to fail.

Lee, who served as the president from 2008 to 2013, posted a message on his Facebook page complaining about the ongoing campaign by the government to clean up so-called “longstanding evils of society.”

“The security crisis is serious and livelihoods are suffering” Lee wrote. “Amid hardship, I am observing the campaign against my presidency under the justification of eradication of accumulated evils. This retrogressive attempt not only harms national interests but will also fail. When an appropriate time comes, there will be an opportunity for me to address the people.”

The statement was posted as the prosecution steps up investigations into top members of Lee’s administration on charges of interfering in domestic politics. The ruling Democratic Party, which was the main opposition party during Lee’s presidency, also made public more accusations against the former president.

The prosecution has barred Kim Kwan-jin, former minister of national defense, from leaving the country to investigate an allegation that the military’s Cyber Command conducted massive online operations to influence the 2012 presidential election. Won Sei-hoon, who headed the National Intelligence Service during Lee’s presidency, was already convicted of illegal cyber smear campaign to help Park Geun-hye win the race. Moon was narrowly defeated by Park in that election.

Kim was appointed minister of defense by Lee in 2010. Park retained him until she appointed him as head of the National Security Office in 2014. He stayed in the post until May 2017, even briefly after Moon took office.

“We have circumstantial evidence that Kim was involved in the illegal operation of the cyber command,” a prosecution source told the JoongAng Ilbo on Wednesday.

The prosecution source said investigators recently found internal military documents that suggested that Kim reported to Lee about the Cyber Command’s illegal online operations. The documents were labeled with a “V” mark. The prosecutors said the mark signifies that the reports went to the president.

Earlier this month, Rep. Rhee Cheol-hee of the ruling Democratic Party made public a defense ministry document dated March 10, 2012. The lawmaker said the document showed that Lee, who was president at the time, approved the increased recruitment of civilian agents for the unit in charge of domestic political operations.

The prosecution also said it is investigating the link between the Cyber Command’s operation and the National Intelligence Service’s operation. “We are looking to see if the intelligence agency’s budget was illegally diverted to support the Cyber Command,” the source said.

The Democratic Party also said Thursday that the Lee Blue House had influenced appointments at the state-run broadcaster KBS.

The ruling party held a press conference and made public five documents supposedly created by the Lee Blue House. The Democrats said the Lee Blue House tried to promote conservative figures while shunning “leftist” executives.

The Lee Blue House also meddled in the 2012 general election, the Democrats said.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]