Cheong Wa Dae denies illegal spying
By Na Jeong-ju
The prosecution has discovered evidence suggesting that President Lee Myung-bak was involved in the illegal surveillance of citizens critical of his administration.
A USB flash drive was confiscated during a recent raid on the house of, Jin Kyung-rak, who headed the public ethics bureau under the Prime Minister’s Office. The bureau reportedly conducted surveillance activities between 2008 and 2010 under the direction of Cheong Wa Dae.
According to a document file on the USB, the bureau dealt with “special orders” from Lee and reported directly to him or the presidential chief of staff.
“The purpose of this organization is to remove former President Roh Moo-hyun’s legacy because it poses an obstacle to President Lee in implementing state affairs,” it said. “All missions should be conducted in a secret manner by those who are truly loyal to the VIP (President Lee).”
The document also called for the need to weed out all pro-Roh executives at public firms.
The evidence backs claims by Jin and other figures that Cheong Wa Dae masterminded the illegal operations and ordered them to destroy all related data after the scandal first broke in 2010.
The presidential office, however, flatly denied any involvement of Lee and the presidential staff.
The main opposition Democratic United Party called on President Lee to make a public apology and to immediately sack Justice Minister Kwon Jae-jin, allegedly in charge of the surveillance activities at the time while a presidential secretary.
“There are so many indications that Cheong Wa Dae was behind the spying, but it is only trying to conceal the truth,” the DUP said in a statement. “We urge President Lee again to come clean and apologize to the public. There will be a horrible situation after he ends his term if he fails to clear the mess now.”
The surveillance scandal dates back to 2008 when the PMO’s ethics bureau was accused of spying on a businessman named Kim Jong-ik and pressured him to quit his job. Kim claims he was monitored after posting a video clip critical of President Lee and the government’s resumption of U.S. beef imports on his blog.
Several lawmakers, including Nam Kyung-pil and Chung Doo-un of the ruling Saenuri Party, also claim that they, and members of their families, were secretly monitored by the PMO.
The prosecution said it has secured more than 400 documents related to the activities. Former PMO officials told investigators that they spied on a number of politicians, businessmen, journalists and civic activists.
Jin and a dozen other officials, including former presidential secretary for labor Lee Young-ho, have been indicted for their involvement.