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KOREA: Prosecution seizes wiretap evidence from DJ years

Prosecutor-led team uncover more evidence of cellphone wiretapping in recent search

The Korea Herald
Monday, August 22, 2005

By Jin Hyun-joo

Seoul -- In its unprecedented raid on the nation's spy agency, prosecutors said they seized records providing evidence of illegal wiretapping of cell phones during the Kim Dae-jung administration.

After a 10-hour long search at the National Intelligence Service on Friday, the prosecution found lists of the names of intelligence officials who requested the use of equipment for eavesdropping conversations.

Prosecutors also found the names of more than 40 people whose conversations had been eavesdropped by the agency.

Some of the evidence was unexpected as the NIS had previously claimed it had destroyed bugging equipment and pertinent documents in 2003 when the Kim administration ended and President Roh Moo-hyun took office and illicit wiretapping operations stopped.

The evidence demonstrates that the agency's wiretapping operations were illegal given that the intelligence agency had never been issued warrants permitting bugging from the court.

Triggered by the latest evidence, the prosecution has picked up the pace of its probe of eavesdropping operations under past governments. This week it plans to subpoena Chun Yong-taek, an intelligence chief under the Kim Dae-jung government and other former top-ranking intelligence officials.

Chun will be asked how the agency obtained leaked tapes from former wiretapping unit leader Kong Un-yong and whether he had any "back-door dealings" with Kong in return for not disclosing Kong's act in leaking the tape to a third party.

During Chun's term in 1999, the agency retrieved bugged recordings from Kong, who leaked a tape to Korean-American businessman William Park. Kong was arrested on charges of leaking illegally wiretapped tapes and of blackmail. Park was himself indicted on the same charges last week.

The two attempted to threaten Lee Hak-soo, a Samsung Group executive, with a tape in which Lee and Hong Seok-hyun, then publisher of the JoongAng Ilbo, are alleged to have discussed payments to presidential candidates in 1997. Hong offered his resignation as ambassador to the United States after the bugging scandal erupted when MBC TV disclosed the tape..

Vice Justice Minister Kim Sang-hee also tendered his resignation after his name came up in connection with a wiretapped tape of a conversation between Lee and Hong.

Those who were involved in the operations of the wiretapping team during other administrations will also be investigated.

The prosecution will summon Oh Chung-so, a former high-ranking official of the agency who was allegedly involved in the reconstruction of the unit in 1994 under the Kim Young-sam government after it was inactive for nearly one year.

Investigators will question Oh on whether or not the agency informed Kim Hyun-chul, a son of Kim Young-sam, and Lee Won-jong, then a top Cheong Wa Dae official, of the contents of eavesdropped conversations.

Other intelligence heads during Kim government may be summoned as well, the prosecution said.