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Ex-cyber warfare chiefs grilled over meddling

Oct 12,2017
Two former chiefs of the cyber command were questioned Wednesday as part of the prosecution’s investigation into the military’s illegal intervention in domestic politics.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office summoned Yeon Jae-wook and Ok Do-kyung in the afternoon as suspects of its investigation. They arrived at the prosecution separately, refusing to answer reporters’ questions.

Earlier in the morning, the prosecutors and investigators raided the homes of Yeon and Ok as well as Lim Kwan-bin, former deputy minister of policy at the Ministry of National Defense. Their mobile phones, documents and data stored in their computers were confiscated.

The prosecution is expanding its investigation into the Lee Myung-bak administration for using state power to intervene in the general and presidential elections in 2012. The National Intelligence Service was accused of operating online smear campaigns against liberal politicians and the probe has now expanded to the Defense Ministry and the military. At the time, Moon was narrowly defeated by Park Geun-hye, then the candidate of Lee’s conservative ruling party.

Yeon served as the commander of the Cyber Command from 2011 to 2012. Ok was the successor and he served the post until April 2014. They were suspected of ordering agents in the command to manipulate public opinions in cyberspace ahead of the elections in 2012.

Lim served as the deputy minister of policy from 2011 to 2013 and prosecutors suspected that he had received briefings on the Cyber Command’s operations.

A suspicion was also raised that Kim Kwan-jin, then defense minister, and Lee’s presidential office received daily briefings on the cyber operations. The prosecution recently barred Kim from leaving the country.

The prosecution also obtained a transcript of a phone conversation between Ok and Lee Tae-ha, who headed the 530 psychological warfare unit, in July 2014. The transcript was confiscated from Lee’s home when the prosecutors conducted a raid last month.

According to the transcript, Lee complained to Ok that it was unfair for the leadership to hold him and his agents solely accountable for the operation. At the time, Lee and his unit was about to be charged by the military prosecutors. Lee also requested Ok to protect the team.

The transcript also said Lee told Ok that he briefed Kim about the cyber operation, but Kim committed perjury at the National Assembly hearing that he was never briefed about it.

The prosecution summoned Lee on Sept. 15 and confirmed the veracity of the transcript.

When the suspicions were first made about the Cyber Command’s domestic political operations, the military prosecutors conducted a probe and indicted Yeon, Ok and Lee in 2014. No link between the Blue House and the Command was announced.

BY SER MYO-JA, HYUN IL-HOON [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]