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South Korea’s ex-spy chief jailed for election meddling


Won Sei-Hoon PHOTO:AFP

A former South Korean spy chief was jailed for four years Wednesday for leading an online smear campaign against the man who is now president, Moon Jae-In, during the 2012 election.

Won Sei-Hoon, who led the National Intelligence Service (NIS) from 2009 to 2013, orchestrated an illicit smear campaign to sway voters in favour of the then-ruling conservative party, the Seoul High Court said.

South Korea only fully embraced democracy in the 1990s and its intelligence services have long been accused of interfering in elections in favour of the incumbent authorities.

Moon lost the 2012 poll to Park Geun-Hye but was elected earlier this year after her impeachment over a corruption scandal.

He has vowed to reform the NIS to prevent it meddling in domestic politics and focus it more on collecting and analysing intelligence on North Korea and foreign affairs.

Won had violated the political neutrality of the NIS by “spreading pro-government opinions through online postings”, the Seoul High Court said in its ruling.

Two other former NIS officials convicted of colluding with Won were given suspended sentences.

Wednesday’s ruling was the latest stage in a long-running legal saga.

Won was first convicted in 2014 but only given a suspended sentence. Both sides appealed and the high court imposed a three-year term, only for the Supreme Court to overturn that decision and send it back for re-hearing.

New evidence emerged in the meantime, the high court said, resulting in the longer penalty.

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