|Ex-spy chief Won Sei-hoon in handcuffs is about to board a van at the Seoul High Court in Seocho-gu, Seoul, Wednesday after he was sentenced to four years in prison for election-meddling. Yonhap|
Former President Lee Myung-bak faces questioning
By Lee Kyung-min
The Seoul High Court sentenced the nation's former top spy agency chief to four years in prison Wednesday for orchestrating cyberwarfare to meddle in the 2012 presidential election.
Former National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief Won Sei-hoon was imprisoned immediately after the ruling. Two former senior NIS officials indicted on the same charge were both sentenced to 30-month prison terms suspended for four years.
The court said the state agency under Won's direction engaged in wide-ranging organized efforts to control and manipulate public opinion.
Won, who headed the NIS from 2009 to 2013, was indicted in June 2013 for ordering his staff to conduct illegal online campaigning to help then-conservative candidate Park Geun-hye and hurt her then-major liberal opponent Moon Jae-in. Park narrowly won in the election at the time.
"The NIS failed to maintain political neutrality and about 70 officials there were deeply involved in domestic politics with the specific intention to sway public opinion to advance the preset agenda managed and delivered through Won. The officials that used fake online IDs to help or hurt certain politicians violated the law and betrayed the public trust," the court said in its ruling.
Won deserves harsh punishment for his methodical and careful execution of illicit activities that continued for a long period of time, the court added.
"Won was aware of the implications of his orders the entire time and was regularly briefed to more precisely control the cyber operation," it said.
The sentencing came more than two years after the Supreme Court returned the case to the appellate court in 2015, ordering a review of the latter's determination about recognizing evidence.
The top court said an email record, which the prosecution presented as critical evidence that led to his conviction, was inadmissible.
Before this, a district court found him guilty of violating the NIS Law but not the Election Law, sentencing him to a 30-month prison term suspended for four years, alongside a three-year suspension from official duty. It did not recognize the email evidence.
However, the appellate court said Won violated the Election Law as well, sentencing him to three years in prison.
The NIS Law bans its workers from engaging in any activities that could influence the outcome of a politically divisive issue.
The Election Law bans public officials from electioneering by abusing their power and authority using the nature of their posts.
Expectations were that Won would face harsher punishment following last-minute evidence submitted by the prosecution last month.
The evidence, written accounts of meeting minutes preserved between 2009 and 2012, was recovered by the NIS task force that is looking into past wrongdoings of the agency under the two former administrations.
In the meetings attended by managerial-level officers in the NIS, Won said the NIS should screen candidates before having them run in local elections. He also said news stories critical of government should not be run, or operations should be launched to shut down media outlets that run such stories, adding "it is the intelligence agency's job to beat up those who do something wrong."
Psychological warfare, he added, was not only limited to North Korea, but also was needed against the (South Korean) public.
Won also urged the meetings attendees to increase efforts to prevent liberals in the country from posing a nuisance against the then conservative government's initiative to push numerous policies.
Meanwhile, former President Lee Myung-bak, the predecessor of Park faces the increased possibility of being questioned over his involvement in such illegalities.
The ruling comes amid the prosecution's expanding investigation into wrongdoings of two former administrations with an NIS in-house task force continue to disclose many such activities, as part of Moon's initiative to eliminate "social ills."
Earlier, the task force concluded the NIS ran 30 extra-departmental teams to manipulate public opinion in the 2012 presidential election.
It said the agency ran such a campaign by hiring tech-savvy NIS officials and private citizens. Their ostensible task was cyberwarfare. The NIS spent 3 billion won ($2.6 million) on this in 2012 alone.
Early last week, the prosecution imposed a travel ban on the 30 leaders of the extra-departmental teams including former and incumbent NIS officials.
The prosecution also raided the homes and offices of these people and most of them were questioned over the next three days.
This week, the prosecution questioned a man who led a group comprised of Lee's supporters and another surnamed Yang who led a group of retired colonels.
The questioning was to look into whether the two maintained contact with, or were given directions, from NIS officials. It also reviewed whether any form of financial support was also given.
"원세훈 판결 비판하는 한국당, 적폐와 자웅동체"
'원세훈 깃털에 불과…이명박 청와대가 정치공작 컨트롤타워'
더불어민주당 우원식 원내대표는 31일 원세훈 전 국가정보원장에 대한 파기환송심 판결과 관련해 '정치적 보복'이라고 반발한 자유한국당을 겨냥해 '적폐와 자웅동체'라고 비판했다.
우 원내대표는 이날 국회에서 열린 정책조정회의에서 '원 전 원장 죄질의 엄중함을 생각하면 4년이 부족할 수 있지만, 지록위마 판결을 받은 1심과 상고심에 비해 진일보했다'며 '원 전 원장 측은 재상고를 공언하고 있지만, 대법원은 추상같은 판결로 최후의 심판을 내려야 한다'고 말했다.
우 원내대표는 특히 '실형 선고는 시작에 불과하고 원 전 원장은 적폐의 깃털에 불과하다는 것은 삼척동자도 잘 안다'며 '이명박 정부 청와대가 정치공작의 컨트롤타워가 돼 주도면밀하게 불법공작을 주도했다는 움직일 수 없는 증거가 쏟아지고 있고, 국정원과 군 적폐 세력, 공영방송이 적폐의 한 몸'이라며 이 전 대통령을 겨냥했다.
그는 이어 '한국당 홍준표 대표, 정우택 원내대표가 원 전 원장에 대한 실형 판결을 보복이라고 했다'며 '그렇다면 두 분은 적폐 세력과 함께 가겠다는 것이냐는 세간의 질문에 답해야 한다'고 압박했다.
그는 '국정원이 일상적으로 정권 편에서 자국민을 상대로 여론 교란 작업을 하고 선거 개입을 하고, 야당 정치인을 사찰하고 반대시위에 자금을 지원해도 된단 말이냐'면서 '적폐와 너무 오래 한 몸으로 살아와 이제 뗄 수 없는 자웅동체가 된 것이냐'고 목소리를 높였다.
4강 대사 임명과 관련해선 '주요 외교안보라인 구성이 마무리 수순에 들어간 만큼 북핵 문제와 관련한 평화적 해결에 최선을 다해야 한다'며 '야당도 국민 불안을 고조하고 국익을 저해하는 정쟁을 중단하길 촉구한다'며 외교 안보 분야에서 초당적 협력을 촉구했다.
내년 예산안에 대해선 '사람중심 경제 정책을 움직이는 작은 톱니바퀴가 예산이라면 조세 정책은 큰 톱니바퀴'라며 '조세 정책 계획이 국회에 제출되면 사람중심 소득주도 성장의 큰 그림에 따라 나랏돈이 민생경제를 살리는 방향으로 흐르도록 논의를 주도하겠다'고 밝혔다.(연합)