Prosecution indict heads of former spy agency

SEOUL (The Korea Herald/ANN) - Two former heads of the National Intelligence Service were indicted Tuesday for illegally offering $1.3 million in agency funds to ousted President Park Geun-hye.

Two former chiefs of South Korea’s spy agency were sent to trial for allegedly offering bribes to ousted President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday, as the prosecution gears up to complete high-profile probes by the end of the year.

The Seoul Central Prosecutor’s Office indicted Lee Byung-ki and Nam Jae-joon, who led the National Intelligence Service under the Park administration, on charges of channeling some of the agency’s budget to the presidential office in return for personal favors.

Nam is suspected of having paid 50 million won every month, totaling 600 million won, and Lee is suspected of having given 100 million won monthly, totaling 800 million won. The money came from the 4 billion won “special activities fund,” part of the spy agency‘s annual budget, which was not subjected to the parliamentary audit and scrutiny.

The prosecution said that they had ordered their subordinates to deliver the money to former President Park through her presidential aides.

Nam was additionally charged with coercing a local conglomerate to financially support a right-wing organization holding pro-government rallies under the Park administration.

The prosecution plans to continue its probe into the spy agency.

It summoned Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party for questioning scheduled for Wednesday. He is suspected of taking bribes from the NIS when he was finance minister during Park‘s presidency.

Shortly before the indictments, the top prosecutor said that the prosecution will strive to complete high-profile investigations into alleged wrongdoings committed under previous conservative administrations by the end of the year.

Since President Moon Jae-in took office in May, calling for reforms to eradicate irregularities in society, the prosecution has been looking into the spy agency over allegations that it manipulated elections, spied on civilians and provided illicit funds to the presidential office.

“It is difficult to set a deadline for investigations, but we will do our best to wrap up major probes within the year,” Prosecutor-General Moon Moo-il told reporters at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office.

“We are investigating them with determination so that such cases in which public servants, government agencies and powerful state institutes interfered with elections and monitored civilians in a democracy will not take place again,” he said.

Key accusations against the National Intelligence Service include its alleged meddling in the 2012 presidential election to sway public opinion in favor of then-conservative candidate Park Geun-hye and the alleged implementation of a blacklist to discriminate against liberal artists.

Conservative opposition politicians, however, have been crying foul over the series of probes into former conservative administrations. They say the prosecution is serving liberal President Moon in his personal vendetta against conservatives.

To make the prosecution more transparent and independent of political pressure, Moon said that it had also formed a taskforce to come up with measures to fix past investigation practices that some critics denounced as “forcible.”

The prosecution will launch a committee this month consisting of 200 external specialists including lawyers and activists to review the prosecution’s investigation process and give opinions on whether the prosecution should make arrests and indictments in key cases, he said.

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