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(LEAD) Civic groups hold candlelight vigil against spy agency's election scandal

2013/08/10 23:12

(ATTN: UPDATES with opposition leaders' participation in vigil from paras 6-9)

SEOUL, Aug. 10 (Yonhap) -- Civic groups had a massive candlelight vigil in the Seoul city center on Saturday to denounce the state spy agency over its alleged meddling in the last presidential election, calling for a thorough parliamentary probe into all relevant suspicions.

The public gathering came after the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) launched a street protest last week, accusing the ruling Saenuri Party of attempting to sabotage a joint parliamentary probe into allegations that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) conducted an online smear campaign to sway public opinion in favor of the ruling party ahead of December's election.

The rival parties have wrangled over various terms of the probe, but this week, they reached agreement on many of the disputed issues including a list of witnesses and an extension of the investigation until Aug. 23.

"There are still much left uncovered although a prosecution probe found that the NIS has intervened in the presidential election," the 284 civic groups that organized the vigil said in a joint statement. "We should unveil all truth behind this incident through the parliamentary investigation that has just begun after much meandering."

   They also called for an apology from President Park Geun-hye over the NIS election scandal and a full-scale reform of the intelligence agency.

The DP leaders, including Chairman Kim Han-gil and floor leader Jun Byung-hun, took part in the citizens' vigil along with other rank-and-file party members after its own street protest against the spy agency's election meddling at the same place.

Leaders of minor opposition parties, including the head of the Unified Progressive Party, Lee Jung-hee, also attended the candlelight vigil.

Organizers claimed about 100,000 people took part in the vigil, while police estimated the crowd at 16,000.

Police deployed some 6,800 officers around the venue of the rally in case of emergency.

Candlelight protests were also held simultaneously in other major cities such as Busan, Daejeon, Daegu and Ulsan.

sshim@yna.co.kr

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