Whistle-blower in spy agency scandal testifies before parliament
SEOUL, Aug. 19 (Yonhap) -- A senior police investigator who accused her bosses of reducing the scope of a probe into the state spy agency's alleged meddling in last year's presidential election confirmed her remarks at a parliamentary hearing Monday, saying she and her team had received "unreasonable orders" from their superiors.
Kwon Eun-hee, the then-chief investigator at Seoul's Suseo Police Station, led a 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 presidential election.
The investigation tried to determine whether NIS agents had posted political comments online, but Kwon alleged early this year that the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA) ordered her team to reduce the number of election-related words they were searching for in records of the agents' online activities.
"A reduction in the number of key words is equivalent to a reduction in the scope of the investigation," Kwon said at the hearing, which came as part of an ongoing parliamentary probe into the scandal.
The investigator also said that her team had been preparing to seek a warrant to raid the office of an NIS agent suspected of posting the political comments on Dec. 12, a week before the election, when then SMPA Chief Kim Yong-pan made a phone call to her, ordering her not to do so.
"(He said) a raid would be inappropriate because it's an internal investigation," Kwon said. "(He also said) what if the prosecution rejects the request?"
Kim told the parliamentary committee last week that he had called Kwon to encourage her.
"That's not true. That's a lie," Kwon said. "Throughout the investigation, my team experienced difficulties and pain. In many cases, that was the result of unreasonable orders trying to stop the investigation from going smoothly."