Church back on the streets against corrupt intelligence service
The protesters alleged NIS interference in the last presidential election that ended with the defeat of the United Democratic Party candidate Moon Jae-in by a small margin.
At least 5,000 Catholics including priests, nuns and lay people from across the country held demonstrations in front of Seoul City Hall on Monday, asking for the dissolution ofSouth Korea'sNational Intelligence Service (NIS).
The protest groups called for the resignation of top NIS officials, an apology from the government for ‘election fraud’ and dismantling of surveillance system that "brought the country back to the years of the military dictatorship" of the 1970s.
The protesters alleged NIS interference in the last presidential election that ended with the defeat of the United Democratic Party candidate Moon Jae-in by a small margin. Jae-in, a Catholic, was also present at the prayer meeting.
His defeat was apparently engineered by people trained by the NIS who sent large numbers of text messages to voters extolling the conservative candidate President Park Geun-hye, while spreading false information about her opponent.
The Catholic Priests' Association for Justice, set up under the Park dictatorship, took part in the prayer for the first time and openly called for the dismantling of the NIS.
After getting the go-ahead of the Korean bishops, who had previously spoken with Vatican officials, priests joined the long battle engaged by lay Catholics against the intelligence service, describing the situation as a serious crisis. Ordinary citizens had united in defending the right to personal liberty against an organisation they considera threat to democracy.
Catholic sources from Justice and Peace interviewed by the newspaper Hankyoreh said that the large presence of Catholics showed that, despite the bishops' great prudence, the situation is "dire".
The South Korean Church had issued a protest manifesto in August against NIS interference. Civil society groups have for weeks held vigils and protests in front of the headquarters of the NIS and of the ruling Conservative (Saenuri) Party demanding justice and truth. Won Buddhist monks had begun a rotating hunger strike to get to the truth.
The NIS was created in 1961 as the Korea Central Intelligence Agency. Its initial task was to supervise and coordinate domestic and international intelligence activities. However, its sweeping powers saw it intervene and actively influence South Korean politics.
In 1981, it took the name of Agency for National Security Planning, following a series of reforms instituted under President Chun Doo-hwan and the Fifth Republic.It assumed its current name in 1999.