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Ruling party accused of rigging online opinion

Apr 16,2018
Korea’s main opposition party urged prosecutors on Sunday to investigate the ruling party for alleged involvement in manipulating online opinion.

The conservative Liberty Korea Party accused three Democratic Party members of using a computer program to drive up positive reactions on comments critical of their own party in news stories carried by the portal site Naver.

The Democratic Party members reportedly told police earlier that they obtained the computer program by chance. They hoped to make it look like conservatives were manipulating online opinion while they were testing the program.

On Saturday, media reports raised suspicions that the three members had contact with an unidentified lawmaker of the Democratic Party. Rep. Kim Kyung-soo has been widely cited as that lawmaker.

In a late-night news conference, Kim denied the allegations. He admitted there was contact with one of the party members in question, but Kim said he rejected his offer for help, which apparently caused the person to turn around and attack the party.

The Liberty Korea Party lashed out at Kim, saying his explanation was full of excuses and urged him to immediately disclose his communication with the person.

“The excuses are so long and pathetic,” Chang Je-won, a spokesman for the Liberty Korea Party, said, adding that his news conference was aimed at thwarting media coverage of the case.

Chang called on prosecutors to take swift action and secure evidence to get to the bottom of the case.

Two other opposition parties, the Bareunmirae Party and Party for Democracy and Peace, have called for a thorough investigation, comparing it to previous cases where conservative administrations used the military’s cyber warfare command and state intelligence agency to rig online opinion.

Ahn Cheol-soo, a key member of the Bareunmirae Party, criticized Kim for portraying himself as a victim and drawing attention away from the case. “This is not an aberration by an individual but a conspiracy involving crime,” he said. Ahn urged Kim to submit to a prosecutorial investigation.

The ruling party dismissed the accusations and related media reports as a “witch hunt” lacking substantiated evidence.

“We express our grave concern over the political chatter and media reports suggesting Kim was behind all of this,” said Baek Hye-ryun, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Party.

Yonhap