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Police raid own bureau on smear allegations

Mar 30,2018
A special investigative team in the National Police Agency raided the offices of its own security bureau Thursday on suspicions that some of its police officers were involved in slandering liberal politicians while the conservative Lee Myung-bak was president.

Twenty investigators searched the offices of the bureau chief and four bureau divisions in the morning and confiscated reports that were generated during the Lee administration.

The National Police Agency created the special team on March 12 after the Ministry of National Defense concluded in its own investigation last month that the police were involved in illegal political operations under President Lee.

Lee, who served from 2008 to 2013, was detained earlier this month as a suspect on a wide range of criminal charges, including bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

Previous investigations uncovered that the National Intelligence Service, the country’s main spy agency, and the military’s Cyber Command had run illegal operations to post online comments favoring Lee and other conservative politicians while denouncing their liberal opponents.

The Defense Ministry said the Cyber Command also ran a so-called “Black Pen” operation from early 2011 to October 2013 to identify internet users deemed critical of the conservative government and military. The National Police Agency was informed about the operation, according to the ministry’s investigation.

Officers who served in the agency’s National Security Bureau in 2011 said they received orders to post comments in favor of the Lee administration, and some actually followed through, according to statements recently submitted to the National Police Agency.

Special investigators will analyze the documents it secured on Thursday and question commanding officers who served in the bureau under President Lee to identify the purpose of the operation and other information.

The team will also look into whether police used any information it obtained from the Cyber Command to conduct unlawful probes against civilians who were blacklisted by the administration, and whether police mobilized conservative groups to manipulate online opinion.

In response to criticism that the investigation should be conducted by prosecutors or another outside party, Lee Chul-sung, the police agency’s commissioner general, promised Thursday that the special team’s investigation would be thorough.

“When the prosecution later discovers something more, the police’s reputation will be destroyed,” Lee said, “and I made that clear to the investigative team. It is our honor at stake.”

Earlier on Wednesday, prosecutors indicted Kim Kwan-jin, who served as defense minister under President Lee, and Kim Tae-kyo, one of Lee’s top aides, on charges of ordering the Cyber Command to run political operations. Lim Kwan-bin, who filed reports to Kim Kwan-jin as head of the defense policy office, was also indicted.

Prosecutors said Kim Kwan-jin, as defense minister, ordered the Cyber Command to post about 9,000 comments before the 2012 elections to smear opposition politicians.

He is accused of later obstructing the ministry’s internal probe into the case in late 2013.

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