Ninety-five police officers from the national security, intelligence and public relations divisions of various police stations and the cyber investigation unit of the NPA’s national security bureau were involved in the opinion rigging that took place between January 2008 and December 2012, police said.
Some officers in the cyber investigation unit had their family members and friends -- 31 civilians -- post favorable online comments on government policies, and supported the military cyber command’s “Black Pen” operation to track down people posting comments critical of the government.
Police have booked seven former and incumbent officers including ex-NPA chief Cho Hyun-oh, former heads of NPA’s National Security Bureau Hwang Sung-chan and Kim Yong-pan on suspicions of abuse of authority.
Civic group People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy had filed a complaint with the prosecution against Cho and other senior police officials over the alleged opinion rigging and political intervention.
“Unlike the National Intelligence Service and the military, there is no corpus delicti to punish working-level police officers involved in the internet comments manipulation,” a police official said.
“We plan to take steps for criminal punishment once the police command is confirmed to have ordered and managed the operation.”
The NPA looked into the case after a Defense Ministry task force announced that the military’s cyber command under the Lee administration shared information about its Black Pen operation with the police.
The NPA launched the special team to investigate the case after obtaining testimonies from then-officers of the cyber investigation unit that they received and carried out orders from their bosses to post online comments supporting government policies.
As part of the probe, the team has raided the regional police agencies of Seoul, southern Gyeonggi Province, Busan, Gwangju and Gangwon Province as well as the NPA’s national security, intelligence bureaus and the spokesperson’s office.
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)