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Defense security command under fire for alleged political interference

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By Lee Min-hyung

The Defense Security Command (DSC) is under fire for its alleged involvement in political activities following the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014.

According to the Ministry of National Defense, the DSC formed a 60-member special task force to handle the aftermath of the ferry disaster which left more than 300 people died from drowning or missing.

The team is suspected of engaging in a series of politically inappropriate activities by running the team for six months after the incident in April 2014, a defense ministry's investigation unit said.

In a document acquired by the ministry, the DSC had come up with measures to stop bereaved families of the disaster from demanding too much compensation from the government by fostering negative public opinion against them.

The document also included specific information of the family members of the victims and the DSC classified their tendencies into hard-line or middle-of-the road (against the government).

"We deeply apologize for the government authority to have engaged in political interference," Ministry of National Defense spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo said in a media briefing Monday.

The defense ministry requested a military prosecution for further investigation into the case.

This came at a time when the DSC is under growing public criticism for having allegedly run an online opinion-rigging team, Sparta, whose key role was to leave online comments in favor of former Presidents Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye. The defense ministry suspects more than 500 personnel joined the special online team.

The defense security body had taken part in reportedly manipulating public opinion between 2009 and 2013, leaving comments defending policies pushed by the two former Presidents.

This March, two colonels from the DSC were arrested for their involvement in political interference.

Following the report, political circles stepped up their criticism of the defense ministry and the DSC.

Justice Party floor leader Roh Hoe-chan said Tuesday the incident is unforgivable, calling for a thorough investigation into the case.

"The DSC is an investigative body to protect military-related confidential security information," Roh said. "But the Sewol disaster has nothing to do with national defense, but the reported case shows the DSC neglected its duty and carried out surveillance on the public. On top of that, the document is full of shocking content, including criticism of bereaved families."

He urged the defense ministry to launch a thorough investigation about how the DSC used the document and its effect on the government's handling of the aftermath of the disaster.


Lee Min-hyung mhlee@koreatimes.co.kr


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