SitRep: South Korea: Suspicions Grow in SK re China’s Online Influencing
Suspicions Grow in South Korea Over China’s Online Influence Operations —
Claims about Chinese attempts to divide South Korean society are gaining increasing attention.
03/suspicions-grow-in-south- korea-over-chinas-online- influence-operations/
NOTE From Lawrence: This report by a mainstream reporter in a mainstream publication lends weight to and brings
out into the open, something which I reported, from sources in Seoul, several years ago. You may recall that starting from 2013 the Korean left had accused an employee of Korea’s National Intelligence Service of improperly engaging in
partisan politics by anonymously or under fake identities posting online comments on social media defending the then
candidate Park, Geun-hye from savage online attacks in the run up to the 2012 Korean presidential election, which she
won. As I noted, this effort was portrayed by the Korean left, and in the Korean media, as a partisan and even an illegal
attempt by the National Intelligence Service to influence the election. For years after 2012, the Korean left maintained
that this was evidence that Park had stolen the election with the help of rogue elements in Korea’s intelligence agency.
However, beginning around 2014, as I reported then, my sources in Korea, including both former government employees
and private activists and experts who worked in and were experts in the field of countering undercover North Korean and
Chinese undercover political influence operations and propaganda offensives against South Korea, a very different story
and explanation had emerged. These individuals came forward to reveal that the South Korean intelligence official who
had been defending candidate Park online was not really campaigning for her in a partisan sense, but rather attempting,
however clumsily, to counter a significant online efforts by North Korean and Chinese trolls to interfere in the election by
influencing the public against Park, by falsely posing as South Korean citizens, while actually operating from within China.
In the 2012 election, as you know, Park defeated her leftist opponent Moon, Jae-in, but Moon was later elected president
in a snap election after the impeachment of Park. Since coming to power in 2017, Moon has consistently implemented
pro-China policies which even mainstream media in Korea have strongly criticized as being rather obsequious in nature.
In connection with this, a personal friend of mine, who as a private activist worked with a team of tech-savvy private
experts to counter and reveal the true sources of this online political influence operation, informed me that the rogue
official at the South’s intelligence agency was merely trying, in an small way, to push back against what was a massive
online smear campaign against then candidate Park, not from her South Korean opponents, but largely from operatives
based in China, who were using fake South Korean identities, including stolen or fake national identification numbers to
make it appear as if this online anti-Park trolling was originating from within South Korea. This friend of mine told me
that in one instance, he and his colleague were able to track down one of the actual sites in China used for this influence
operation, and he actually visited there and discovered that inside a Chinese hotel not far from the Chinese border with
North Korea, there were dozens of ethnic Koreans living in China who were hard at work pumping out online comments
bashing Park on Korean social media. My friend even claimed that he had certain indications, and that he therefore
personally believed, that this campaign to influence Korean politics took three distinct forms with the same overall goal.
The first, he said, was a Chinese government-run effort to influence the 2012 South Korean election and politics in general,
the second was an ongoing North Korean government-run effort by North Korean agents operating in China for the same
purposes, and the third, was a similar private effort carried out by ethnic Koreans in China which was funded not by any
government, but rather by pro-Moon, Jae-in elements in South Korea, a kind of Korean political campaign call center that
happened to be based in China rather than South Korea, and did not actually call people, but instead had posted smears
against Park on Korean social media, purporting to be from Korean citizens. My friend who shared with me this sensitive
information says he will not widely reveal it publicly unless he first obtains an immigrant visa to come and settle in the U.S.,
because he has a family to support and fears political retaliation and even government persecution or possibly prosecution
under Korea’s bizarre “criminal defamation” laws which do not consider the truth of a statement to be an absolute defense.
However, Korean experts whom I know, scholars who have studied and closely monitored North Korean and Chinese online
influence operations targeting Korea in general and specifically focusing on influencing Korean elections, have told me that
they can confirm as accurate the overall gist of what my friend had disclosed to me. This new article therefore, which was
written by a former correspondent for FINANCIAL TIMES, not a conspiracy theorist, tends to confirm the general outlines,
if not all the specifics, of what I had been told by my friend and by several bona fide and credible experts on such matters.