Disclaimer: The following is a totally unauthoritative personal translation of an article appeared in Hankyoreh on Jan 3, 2013, reporting an NIS agent’s illegal activity to manipulate public opinion on presidential candidates during last presidential election in a progressive internet community. All rights regarding this post stay with the author(s) of the original article or with Hankyoreh and this post will be scrapped immediately at their request. In the post, I tried to match the English translation of names of people / institution(s) / position(s) to authentic one(s) as much as possible but, unfortunately, some of them still can be different. Original article of this post (in Korean) can be found in the link below.
Police summons Ms. Kim again on Jan 4
Expressed ‘I recommend’ or ‘I object’ to 269 postings
Postings with 3 or more objections are not exposed to main page despite numerous recommendations
Circumstantial evidence to ‘manipulate’ public opinion
Police “Some were job related stuffs …”
Silences on previous briefings excluding possibility of presidential election intervention
Concrete circumstance has surfaced supporting the suspicion that National Intelligence Service (NIS) agent Kim (29) has been mengling with presidential election while trying to manipulate public opinion in popular internet community web page using multiple ids.
On Jan 3, Seoul Suseo police briefed “NIS agent Kim has expressed ‘I recommend’ or ‘I object’ 288 times to 269 posts using 16 ids on web page of progressive internet community ‘Today’s Humor(todayhumor.co.kr)’ during Aug. 28 and Dec. 10 just before presidential election last year.”
Police also said “Ms. Kim consistently ‘objected’ to posts expressing favorable opinions to opposition candidate Mr. Moon while consistently ‘recommended’ posts favorable to ruling party candidate Ms. Park.” As a whole, 94 of posts Ms. Kim expressed her minds to manipulate public opinion were about presidential election. She was known to have been using multiple ids she had made at web portal Yahoo where she had not need to reveal her real identity.
Diverse social and political issues have been circulated in internet community ‘Today’s Humor’ besides funny stuffs and, because of this, it has been touted as a hotspot for progressive web users. This web community aka TH has been compared with another conservative web community ‘Daily Best’ aka DB. During last presidential election period, TH and DB have been online battle outposts of progressive and conservative spheres during last presidential election. During that time, TH circulated loads of materials rooting for opposition candidates Mr. Jae-in Moon (Democratic Unification Party, DUP) and Cheol-soo Ahn (independent) and criticising Ms. Geun-hye Park (Saenuri Party).
In this community, people can make ids with email addresses without exposing real identities contrary to many other communities. When a posting gets a hoard of ‘recommendations’ from other users, it is classified as a ‘best posting’ or a ‘best of best’ and appears in the main page. To the contrary, if the posting gets 3 or more ‘objections’, it cannot be a ‘best posting’ and, with 10 or more ‘objections’, it cannot be a ‘best of best’ and cannot appear in the main page. One id can express only one recommendation or objection to a posting.
This peculiar editorial guideline of this community was designed to expose good postings more through voluntary cooperation of community users but it seems to have prompted Ms. Kim to use numerous ids simultaneously. People suspect that simultaneous multiple ids could have diluted the odds of exposing her political proclivity than while using single id and also controlled postings’ chance of wider exposure by repeatedly ‘recommending’ or ‘objecting to’ specific postings and preventing them to be chosen as ‘best postings’.
Police, though declined to divulge “what Ms. Kim as her job”, said “some postings in the community web page were related to her job”. This spurs a suspicion that her job could have been to circulate pro-government postings to or monitor progressive internet communities.
Police will summon Ms. Kim again on Jan 4 and determine if her action violated Public Official Election Act (POEA). Lawyer So-ah Lee of Lawyers for Democratic Society said “If an NIS agent did this kind of thing during business hours, it can be considered to have violated the POEA and National Public Service Act. Also, if she followed orders from NIS or Saenuri Party, it is a direct violation of civil servant’s duty to be neutral to political matters.”
As Ms. Kim’s internet activity is exposed though roughly, public criticism mounts to Police for abruptly distributing press briefing material just after 3rd televised presidential candidates’ debate at Dec 16 11PM. In that briefing, police said “Police could not find any slandering materials in the hard disk of her own computer.” Su-seo police station chief Gwang-seok Lee explained “It looks like it was too quick to conclusively say ‘there’s no chance she could have intervened to presidential election’ at that time.”
Voices demanding Seoul Regional Police commissioner Yong-pan Kim to take responsibility for directing clumsy investigation briefing get louder too. Speaker of DUP Yong-jin Park blasted “We make it clear that we would not pass over police authority’s responsibility of holding a clumsy investigation briefing and causing a controversy of police mingling with presidential election. Seoul Regional Police commissioner who caused suspicion of election intervention and lost nonpartisan confidence should show a responsible demeanor.” He also said “We demand National Police Agency to directly investigate this matter excluding Seoul Regional Police commission Kim from the chain of command since its own honour is at stake.”
Reporter Hwan-bong Jung 정환봉 기자 email@example.com