South Korea’s intelligence agency has gone by several names since the Korean War 60 years ago, but it has a dubious history. Former authoritarian leader Park Chung-hee, who seized power in a 1961 military coup, used the agency as a tool to crack down on student protests. In 1979, Park was assassinated by his own spy chief.
After South Korea’s democratization in the late-1980s, the agency officially became apolitical. But opponents say the agency is now helping Park Geun-hye in much the way it helped Park Chung-hee, her father. Monday, the Hankyoreh, South Korea’s major liberal newspaper, printed a cartoon showing the president, in a military outfit, surrounded by cronies holding computer keyboards and mouses. The image was modeled after a photo of Park Chung-hee, flanked by top military officials, after his coup.
Analysts say the alleged election tampering is far more serious than the debate about the 2007 transcript. But that controversy, too, has provided weeks of fodder for South Koreans.
The transcript showed the conversation between Roh and then-North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Il during a summit meeting in Pyongyang. Interest in the specifics of what Roh told Kim dated to last year, when some conservative lawmakers suggested that Roh had offered to surrender parts of South Korean maritime territory in an undisciplined effort to make peace with the North. The charge was potent, because the liberal running for president last year, Moon, had once served as Roh’s chief of staff.
According to the transcript, while discussing the maritime border, Roh said that it “should change.” But he also said, presciently, that the issue was touchy. “The problem is that whenever the [maritime border] is mentioned, everyone rises and makes noise like a swarm of bees,” Roh said.
In the closest she has come to taking a side on the issue, Park, one day after the transcript’s release, told her cabinet that the South should never forget the “blood and deaths” that occurred in defense of that border.
Yoonjung Seo contributed to this report.