South Korea military intelligence caught spying on citizens



Since last December, a residential building scheduled for redevelopment in the Yongsan district of South Korean capital Seoul had been the site of a mass occupation campaign. Dozens of protesters, all building residents, were refusing to leave unless they were offered improved compensation and relocation packages. On January 20, however, Seoul’s riot police and SWAT units stormed the building using tear gas and water cannons. During the operation, parts of the building were engulfed in a huge blaze, which caused the deaths of five protestors and one police officer, and injured 23 people, one of whom is reportedly in a coma. On the evening of Saturday, January 31, protestors who had gathered in and around Seoul’s Myeongdong Cathedral for a candlelight memorial service for the victims of the fire spotted a group of plainclothes military intelligence officers with South Korea’s Capital Defense Command (CDC) clandestinely observing the vigil. The six-member group appeared to be directed by a number of commanding officers who were also in the proximity of the vigil, though detached from the crowd. Organizers of the vigil isolated the six intelligence officers and proceeded to search them, but discovered no surveillance equipment. Witnesses said, however, that one of the intelligence officers appeared to be reporting on the movements of vigil participants on his cell phone. Questioned as to the reasons for their presence at the vigil, the officers responded that they were there “to check if any soldiers were participating in the protest”. In a subsequent statement, the South Korean Army said the soldiers were “engaged in preventative activities [to ensure] that servicemen out [for] the weekend did not get involved in the protest crowds”. The vigil was attended by approximately 10,000 people.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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