Kim Kyoung-soo was found guilty of using illegal online tactics to persuade public opinion during the 2017 presidential elections. (Photo NY Times)

Kim Kyoung-soo, governor of Gyeongsang Province, was convicted on January 30, 2019 of using internet tactics to illegally influence the public’s opinion of President Moon Jae-in before his election. Mr. Kim was a key ally to President Moon, who campaigned for the presidency as a clean politician, denouncing the the very schemes sending Mr. Kim to prison for two years.

There is no evidence that President Moon had knowledge of the illegal plot coordinated by Kim Kyoung-soo and internet blogger, Kim Dong-won, who is better known by his online alias, Druking. Druking and Mr. Kim planned and executed the use of special software and a team of bloggers to post nearly 1.4 million comments on Korean news sites, promoting Moon Jae-in and his policies. According the charges, the team of bloggers also
created close to 100 million “likes” and “dislikes” for the sites’ articles.

The covert mission fell apart after Druking said Mr. Kim failed to secure a civil service job for one of Druking’s associates as agreed. Druking then engaged the blogging team in executing an online smear campaign against President Moon. The President’s political party sued Druking for false claims and posting “fake news”. Investigation of the charges subsequently led to the revelation of Kim Kyoung-soo’s role in the earlier illegal activities.

Kim Kyoung-soo’s conviction is peculiarly similar to the August 2017 conviction of Won Sei-hoon, a former spy and former head of the Korean National Intelligence Service. Mr. Won is serving four years in prison for swaying the election of former president, Park Geun-hye, by using illegal online blogging campaigns that targeted Ms. Park’s political rivals with negative and false posts online. At the time, Ms. Park’s targeted rivals included current president, Moon Jae-in.

President Moon has denied any wrongdoing or even knowledge of the illegal ploys. Though President Moon has not been charged, nor is he being investigated for these crimes, as the champion of clean Korean politics, the conviction is a tough political blow for him.

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