It has been almost a year since South Korea's spy agency made headlines for manipulating public opinion before the latest presidential election, but shocking revelations have shown that the electoral interference was much more than some maverick spy agents trying to sway public opinion – it was done systematically and on a massive scale.
Recently, the country's prosecutor's office conducted a thorough investigation and found that the scope of election manipulation was much wider and organized than anyone has expected: 1.2 million tweets were sent out by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) to smear opposition leaders, and 23 million tweets [ko] were spread by the Defense Ministry's Cyberwarfare Command to tip the scale in favor of current President Park Geun-hye.
Weekly protests seem to have rekindled, as well as numerous tweets about this unprecedented election interference:
총체적대선개입 공약파기 노동탄압규탄 범국민촛불대회 수 만의 뿔난 시민들과 함께 개최 중에 있습니다. [6시현재] pic.twitter.com/eNPFBOoVdj
— 신비, 김상호 (@sinbi2010) November 23, 2013
We are now holding a candlelight rally [as of 6 p.m., November 23] with tens of thousands of angry citizens against the systematic electoral interference, broken campaign promises and a clampdown on labor groups.
국정원의 선거개입 트윗 110만건은 어마어마한 규모.댓글부대원이 100명이라면 1인당 1만1000건을 쓴 꼴.한 사람이 하루 50건씩 써도 220일 소요.공무원이니 토-일요일,휴뮤일 빼면 1년 내내 써야하는 물량.조직적-체계적인 선거개입의 물증.
— 김영호 (@ghyh44) November 20, 2013
The number of NIS’s election-related tweets are found to be around 1.1 million – what a colossal amount. If we assume that there are a hundred NIS agents [whose major tasks are leaving comments online], it means one agent took care of 11,000 tweets. If you assume that he or she wrote 50 tweets a day on average, that still takes 220 days to reach that number. If we dont count weekends and holidays, they need a full year to publish this amount of tweets. And it is the evidence that there has been a systemic, organized, and massive efforts to interfere in the election. [*note: More of NIS's tweets have been found as the investigation proceeds, the most recent revelation says that they are about 1.24 million tweets [ko] in total.]
Countless sarcastic comments were made about not only the NIS agents but also the Defense Ministry's Cyberwarfare Command, which is believed to be three times bigger than the NIS’s cyberteam [ko]. It allegedly sent about 20 times more election-related tweets than the spy agency:
@SamuelWKim1: 국정원 121만건..사이버부대가 2300만 건..국정원 놀았네.
@SamuelWKim1: The NIS sent 1.21 million tweets and the military’s Cyberwarfare Command sent 23 million tweets. The NIS was not working hard [compared to the Cyberwarfare Command].
세계 그 어떤 나라도 국정원 같은 국가 기관이 이처럼 대규모로 대선 공작한 나라는 없었다. 어서 영국 기네스북에 전화해서 세계 역사상 최대 규모의 대선 공작 댓글 120만개가 발견된 나라로 등재해야 한다. 포탈 댓글도 나오면 기록 갱신도 가능하다.
— 애견인; 미니핀만 25년 (@planner95) November 21, 2013
No country in the world has pulled off such a systemic and massive manipulation of elections. Please somebody call the Guinness Book of World Records in England and ask them to list us as a country where an unprecedented number of 1.2 million manipulative tweets have been found. If we can also include numbers of comments they [NIS and military Cyberwarfare Command] left on portal sites, we can even break that record.
檢, 국정원 정치.선거 트윗글 124만건 최종확인 http://t.co/KI7s7t93L0 현재 확인된 트윗글만 124만건! 하지만 저 엄청난 규모도 빙산의 일각일 것… 네이버, 다음 등 포털 등의 댓글을 제대로 수사했다면?
— 서주호 (@seojuho) November 20, 2013
The prosecutor's office confirmed that NIS wrote 1.24 million of election and politics-related tweets. They’ve found 1.24 million tweets so far! But I believe even that number would be just the tip of the iceberg. What if they had done a more thorough investigation on the portal sites such as Naver and Daum?
Additional revelation came out later [ko] that best-selling authors, academics and even entertainers who vocally criticized the administration have also been a target of attacks by the NIS tweets:
@actormoon: 이건 대상이 ‘민간인'이란 면에서 또 다른 차원의 ‘범죄'입니다
@actormoon: Considering the fact that some tweets were targeting civilians, it is another level of “crime”