The spy agency’s bombshell announcement of the fall of the North Korean leader’s powerful uncle came when suspicions were building that the presidential office played a role in the downfall of a defiant chief prosecutor.
In similar fashion, the news on the prosecution’s investigation into charges of revolt faced by a progressive party this summer was released while calls for reforming the law enforcement agency were heightening.
These and other high-profile news stories effectively muted voices against the government, the National Intelligence Service and the prosecution office, sparking a widespread conspiracy theory.
While there is little evidence to indicate that the authorities are intentionally trying to distract public opinion, such beliefs are fueled by the frequency of such well-timed releases of information.
Claims about the so-called “watering down” of sensitive political issues are surfacing once again, prompted by the developments surrounding North Korea’s Jang Song-thaek.
On Tuesday, the National Intelligence Service revealed to lawmakers that Jang, one of Pyongyang’s leading figures, had been removed from power.
The timing of the revelation, however, has riled the opposition, as it came while the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic Party were discussing the setting up of a special committee on reforming the NIS.
“The fact that the NIS disclosed that Jang Song-thaek has been purged just as the ruling and opposition parties were discussing the special committee for its reform raises many questions,” DP spokesman Park Yong-jin said on Wednesday.
The ruling party, meanwhile, is playing down the issue.
“The DP has raised a conspiracy theory about the timing of Jang Song-thaek’s removal, but this is nothing but a serious case of an incurable condition of mistrust,” Saenuri Party secretary general Rep. Hong Moon-jong said.
“The people are bewildered by the raising of conspiracy theories by the DP, whether or not the country’s well-being is on the line.”
The accusations about the suspicious timing of Tuesday’s revelations by the NIS, however, are not the first.
In August, the NIS raided the homes and offices of those associated with the Unified Progressive Party’s Rep. Lee Seok-ki on suspected involvement in plotting a revolt. The fallout from the development engulfed the National Assembly just as the opposition bloc’s efforts for investigating and reforming the NIS appeared to be gaining momentum.
On Nov. 12, the prosecution closed the investigation into former Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-eui’s alleged sex crimes, saying that no evidence of criminal activity was found. Two days later came an announcement regarding illegal gambling by celebrities. The number of news reports about the gambling case registered on the country’s largest portal site Naver between Nov. 10 and 13 amounted to over 2,000. In contrast, only 304 news stories could be found on Kim Hak-eui.
In addition, these speculations are further fueled by the fact that both probes were conducted by the same team at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.
The news regarding the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office’s decision to punish Yoon Seok-yeol was similarly buried by stories about nude photographs of singer Ailee. Both stories broke on Nov. 11.
Yoon, the head of the prosecutors’ office in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province, was suspended for three months for ignoring the chain of command in conducting the investigation into the NIS’s alleged election meddling.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com