South Korean illegal surveillance incident

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Korean name
Hangul 민간인 불법사찰 사건
Revised Romanization Minganin Bulbeopsachal Sageon
McCune–Reischauer Min'ganin Pulbŏpsach'al Sagŏn

The South Korean illegal surveillance incident (Korean: 민간인 불법사찰 사건, or illegal civilian surveillance incident) was alleged to have occurred in 2010 when the Civil Service Ethics Division (공직윤리지원관실) under the Prime Minister's Office of South Korea inspected a civilian, a political action that is illegal under the South Korean conventions. The incident re-emerged in early 2012 as the election approached.[1]


Kim Jong-ik[edit]

The surveillance scandal originally developed as an investigation of a South Korean civilian named Kim Jong-ik (Korean: 김종익), a bank worker who posted in his blog a video clip Jwiko (Korean: 쥐코) that lampooned President Lee Myung-bak as a rat in a fashion from the movie, Sicko.[2] This has generated multiple controversies such as concerns of Internet censorship[3] and political misconducts. In a March 2012 interview of Kim Jong-ik, he said has been "emotionally scarred" and was forced to resign his position at his company and move to Japan. He had lost his means to support his family and accumulated debt. Kim did not know why he himself was singled out as a target, as many others had posted the same video. He expressed deep concerns towards the government of this happening again.[4]


In 2012, The Supreme Prosecutors' Office of the Republic of Korea (SPO) has decided to reopen the case based on testimonies of the bureau insider, Jang Jin-su (장진수).[5] A special team of prosecutors was formed to investigate the surveillance incident and a potential cover up.

The Supreme Prosecutors' Office of the Republic of Korea raided the Prime Minister's Office for the first time in its history on July 9, 2010.[6] The SPO eventually discovered an alleged concealment of evidences.[7] Former Presidential Secretary for Employment and Labor Relations, Lee Young-ho (이영호), was banned from leaving the country for his involvement in incident.[8]

Former Presidential Secretary Lee Young-ho and former Presidential Labor Advisor Choi Jong-seok were arrested on April 3, 2012 for allegedly ordering Jang Jin-su to destroy the information related to the surveillance.[9][10] On April 4, 2012, Jang Jin-su revealed pictures of 50 million won he claims he received from Rhyu Chung-ryeol, a former Prime Minister's Office official, as a bribe to destroy the data, through the independent South Korean news source, OhMyNews.[11][12]

Roh Moo-hyun and Lee Myung-bak administrations[edit]

As the scandal was revisited during the 2012 Korea elections, debate has expanded over into conducts by both the current and previous regimes. Some have alleged that surveillance was done during the previous regime, as well as the current.[13]

Media reports[edit]

Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation, a notable media outlet, claimed to expose the incident in its journalist-oriented investigative program, PD Notebook, on June 29, 2010.[14]

The KBS-affiliated journalists who are on strike claimed to have obtained 2,619 surveillance-related cases of reports from the Lee Myung-bak government.[15][16] However, it was later reported that over 80% of the alleged illegal surveillance records were actually created during the previous Roh Moo-hyun regime. Of the 2,619 documents, only 120 were considered actual reports, and 2 reports were of civilians.[17][18] Two former executives of National Intelligence Service, Koh Yeong-gu and Kim Man-bok denied the claims.[19] The KBS union immediately posted a tweet calling the explanation a lie, but soon changed stance and apologized for the inaccurate information.[18][20] The KBS journalists who are on strike later refuted the claim. They claimed that the total of cases including the duplicated entities are 2,837; total of cases during the Roh administration are 2,356 and written by police forces who follow normal procedures in which only 10 cases are involved with civilians.[21]

The Dailian criticised the KBS union for creating a large fabrications of facts used for political purposes, especially during election season.[22]

Public opinion[edit]

The main opposition Democratic United Party demanded a full reinvestigation of the incident.[23] The Korea Times[24] and The New York Times[25] compared the scandal to the American Watergate scandal, referring to it as the "Watergate of Korea". The conservative political activist and a current Saenuri Party political reformer, Lee Sang-don, made a remark during a radio interview on 5 April 2012:[26][27]

The illegal surveillance case is exactly the same as the Watergate scandal. [U.S. President Richard] Nixon didn’t instruct the illegal spying but stepped down from presidency for covering up the case.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chung, Min-uck (2012-03-13). "Surveillance case reemerges as polls near". Korea Times. Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  2. ^ Park (박), Yeong-chul (영출); Shin Bo-yeong (신보영) (2010-07-05). 김종익씨 ‘쥐코’ 동영상이 사찰 발단. Munhwa Ilbo (in Korean). Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  3. ^ Han (한), Yun-hyeong (윤형) (2012-03-05). 왜 ‘민간인 불법사찰 증거인멸’에 주목해야 할까?. MediaUs (in Korean). Retrieved 2012-04-05. 
  4. ^ Jeong (정), Rak-in (락인) (2012-03-21). 인간관계까지 철저히 파괴돼…나는 대한민국의 국민이 아니었다. Sisa Journal (in Korean). Retrieved 2012-04-05. 
  5. ^ Song, Sang-ho (2012-03-16). "Prosecutors reopen probe of 2010 illegal surveillance case". Korea Herald. Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  6. ^ Bae, Ji-sook (2010-07-09). "Prosecution raids PM's office". Korea Times. Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  7. ^ Park, Si-soo (2010-07-11). "PM's Office suspected of concealing key evidence". Korea Times. Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  8. ^ Lee, Hyo-sik (2012-03-18). "Key figures in surveillance scandal face summons". Korea Times. Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  9. ^ "Two Key Figures In Surveillance Scandal Arrested". Arirang news. 2012-04-04. Retrieved 2012-03-04. 
  10. ^ Choi, He-suk (2012-04-04). "Surveillance scandal grows, key figures arrested". Korea Herald. Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  11. ^ Kim (김), Hyeon-jun (현준) (2012-04-04). 장진수씨에 전달된 '관봉 5천만원' 사진 공개. Yonhap News (in Korean). Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  12. ^ Choi (최), Ji-yong (지용) (2012-04-04). 청와대 '5천만원 돈다발' 찰칵! 충격입니다 '증거인멸' 무마용... 5만원권 1000장 '비닐 포장. OhMyNews (in Korean). Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  13. ^ "내연녀와 모텔에…" 盧정부때 사찰문서 입수. Donga Ilbo (in Korean). 2012-04-05. Retrieved 2012-04-05. 
  14. ^ Hong (홍), Se-gi (세기) (2010-07-01). `쥐코'동영상이 뭐길래…블로그에 올렸다 `범죄인'됐다. News Way (in Korean). Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  15. ^ "More than 2,600 Cases of Illegal Surveillance by PM Office Surface". Arirang News. 2012-03-30. Retrieved 2012-03-30. 
  16. ^ "Lee gov't draws flak for fresh revelations in surveillance scandal". Yonhap News. 2012-03-30. Retrieved 2012-03-30. 
  17. ^ "靑 "민간인 사찰 대부분 노무현 때…"". Donga Ilbo. 2012-03-31. Retrieved 2012-03-31. 
  18. ^ a b "청와대 반박에 "구라"라던 KBS 노조, 5시간 만에 슬그머니 '오류 사과'". Chosun Ilbo. 2012-03-31. Retrieved 2012-03-31. 
  19. ^ Kim (김), Sang-man (상만) (2012-04-04). 참여정부 국정원장들 "정치사찰 없었다". Media Today (in Korean). Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  20. ^ "靑 "민간인 사찰 대부분 노무현 때…"". Donga Ilbo. 2012-03-31. Retrieved 2012-03-31. 
  21. ^ Lee (이), Jae-jin (재진) (2012-04-01). 참여정부 국정원장들 "정치사찰 없었다". Media Today (in Korean). Retrieved 2012-04-05. 
  22. ^ "KBS공영노조 "사찰문건 폭로, 최악 언론조작"". Dailian (in Korean). 2012-04-01. Retrieved 2012-04-05. 
  23. ^ Lee, Sun-young (2012-03-13). "Opposition demands reopening probe on surveillance scandal". Korea Herald. Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  24. ^ "Watergate of Korea". Korea Times. 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  25. ^ "In South Korea Scandal, Echoes of Watergate". The New York Times. 2012-04-09. Retrieved 2012-04-29. 
  26. ^ Chung, Min-uck (2012-04-05). "It's Watergate!". Korea Times. Retrieved 2012-04-05. 
  27. ^ Shin (신), Ji-hong (지홍) (2012-04-05). 이상돈, 불법사찰 관련 대통령 '하야' 거론. Yonhap News (in Korean). Retrieved 2012-04-05. 

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