The Korea Herald

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Ruling party ups call for election body probe

National Election Commission hit by nepotism in hiring, refuses inspection into North Korean hacking scandal

By Kim Arin

Published : June 4, 2023 - 18:11

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National Election Commission (NEC) National Election Commission (NEC)

South Korea’s central election body is resisting mounting calls to face investigation even as the allegations of nepotistic hiring practices and negligent cyber security continue to grow.

The ruling People Power Party convened an emergency meeting of its leaders on Sunday and slammed the National Election Commission for rejecting the state inspectors’ request to look into the ongoing allegations.

At Sunday’s meeting, the ruling party chief Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon said the election commission members voting unanimously to refuse the state inspection was “shocking” and “unbelievable.”

“The election commission is refusing to be inspected saying it is its right as a constitutional organization. However, the commission hasn’t proven itself to be capable of correcting itself, based on how its governing officials have responded to the recent allegations,” he said.

He said according to the relevant laws, the election commission would not be exempt from state inspections. In 2016 and 2019, election officials had faced inspection over workplace malpractice, he cited as example.

The election commission said Friday in an internal vote its members decided to only agree to investigations by the public watchdog Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission and the National Assembly -- both of which do not have the authority to access or obtain information or force compliance with its investigative activities.

On the decision, the ruling party leader said the election commission “should not hide behind closed doors, and respond with transparency to regain public trust.”

The election commission’s chairperson Rho Tae-ak apologized last week after 11 of its senior officials were found to have had their children land jobs at the commission under questionable circumstances. Two of them stepped down after the hiring of their children came under public scrutiny.

Separately, the election commission is accused of failing to comply with measures to enhance security despite repeated warnings of North Korean cyberattacks from the country’s intelligence service.

In the two-year period up to March this year, the intelligence authorities had notified the election commission of eight different instances of cyberattack attempts -- seven of which were by North Korea's intelligence service the Reconnaissance General Bureau.

The election commission had initially denied that it had received such warnings when the accusations first surfaced in early May, only to admit later and accede to a security screening.