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    South Korea's spy agency has admitted it conducted a behind-the-scenes campaign which helped Park Geun-hye win the 2012 presidential election. The National Intelligence Service (NIS) used psychological warfare techniques to boost support for Park, who was ousted earlier this year after becoming embroiled in a corruption scandal.

    In 2012, she gained 15.7 million votes, beating her liberal rival, who was backed by 14.7 million people.

    Moon won most votes in the capital, Seoul, and in the traditionally liberal Jeolla region, in the south-west, but Park won the rest of the country and got huge support in the conservative Gyeongsang region, in the south-east.

    This file photo taken on December 18, 2012 shows South Korea's presidential candidate Moon Jae-In of the opposition Democratic United Party speaking during a press conference at the party head office in Seoul.
    © AFP 2019 / KIM JAE-HWAN
    This file photo taken on December 18, 2012 shows South Korea's presidential candidate Moon Jae-In of the opposition Democratic United Party speaking during a press conference at the party head office in Seoul.

    In May, Moon was finally elected president.

    The NIS, which was founded as the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) and has close links with the CIA in the United States, has a history of supporting right-wing candidates in Korea.

    In the fall of 2012 Park's predecessor, the NIS, under the conservative President Lee Myung-bak, apparently threw its support behind efforts to get Park elected.

    Then US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with then South Korean President Park Geun-hye (R) prior to a meeting at the Blue House in Seoul on May 18, 2015.
    © AFP 2019 / Jeon Heon-Kyun
    Then US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with then South Korean President Park Geun-hye (R) prior to a meeting at the Blue House in Seoul on May 18, 2015.

    Park is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, a military dictator who became President in the 1960s and helped kick off South Korea's phenomenal economic success.

    He was assassinated by the then head of the KCIA in 1979, but remains the most popular president in the history of South Korea.

    His daughter is currently on trial for corruption and abuse of power stemming from her close relationship with Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of Choi Tae-min, a pseudo-Christian leader who set up a cult called The Church of Eternal Life and claimed he had been visited by the soul of Park's mother, who was murdered by a North Korean agent in 1974.

    Several Korean conglomerates, or chaebol, allegedly donated money to the Church of Eternal Life or other causes supported by Choi Soon-sil as a favor to President Park.

    Park finally resigned and left the Blue House in March, after months of protests.

    People take part in a rally calling for President Park Geun-hye to step down in central Seoul, South Korea, November 12, 2016.
    © REUTERS / Kim Hong-Ji
    People take part in a rally calling for President Park Geun-hye to step down in central Seoul, South Korea, November 12, 2016.

    The NIS has been under investigation by the Korean police and its former chief, Won Sei-hoon, is on trial on multiple charges of election fraud.

    The NIS, in a bid to head off Moon's reforms, launched its own in-house investigation and released a report on the last day of Won's trial.

    Protesters wearing cut-outs of South Korean President Park Geun-hye (R) and Choi Soon-sil attend a protest denouncing Park over a recent influence-peddling scandal in central Seoul, South Korea, October 27, 2016.
    © REUTERS / Kim Hong-Ji
    Protesters wearing cut-outs of South Korean President Park Geun-hye (R) and Choi Soon-sil attend a protest denouncing Park over a recent influence-peddling scandal in central Seoul, South Korea, October 27, 2016.

    The report says it has discovered dozens of agents in its cyberwarfare unit had posted bogus messages of support for Park and criticism of Moon on social media and news websites during the 2012 campaign.

    "The teams were charged with spreading pro-government opinions and suppressing anti-government views, branding them as attempts by pro-North Korean forces to disrupt state affairs," said an NIS internal report.

    Park's Liberty Korea party has claimed the NIS inquiry is politically motivated.

    "The NIS says it will dissociate itself from politics but it is meddling in politics again by starting this probe," said Liberty Korea spokesman Kang Hyo-sang.

    Won, who could go to prison for up to four years if found guilty, allegedly   urged senior NIS officials to intervene in the election, telling the battle was on a par with the cyber war with North Korea.

    "Our psychological warfare against North Korea is important, but our psychological warfare against the South Korean public is pretty important, too," Won allegedly said during a meeting in April 2012.

    Moon has pledged to reform the NIS to prevent it influencing future elections.

    US President Donald Trump meets South Korea's President Moon Jae-In and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ahead the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany July 6, 2017.
    © REUTERS / Carlos Barria
    US President Donald Trump meets South Korea's President Moon Jae-In and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ahead the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany July 6, 2017.

    But the agency has been reformed twice already.

    In 1979 the KCIA was renamed the Agency For National Security Planning and lost much of its power, following the assassination of Park Chung-hee.

    Then, in 1999 it was reformed again in an effort to remove ultra-conservative elements and was renamed the NIS by President Kim Dae-jung.

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    Tags:
    intelligence agencies, presidency, probe, intelligence, National Intelligence Service Korea (NIS), Korean Central Intelligence Agency, Liberty, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Lee Myung-bak, Moon Jae-in, Park Geun-hye, United States, Seoul, South Korea
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