opposition-former spy chief

SEOUL, March 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's opposition parties demanded Saturday that former government spy chief Won Sei-hoon be barred from leaving the country, claiming that his travel abroad would make it hard to investigate allegation that he had interfered in domestic politics.

The demand comes after published media reports that the former chief of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) will leave for the United States on Sunday and stay there for some time. The media did not say why he was leaving.

Won, who served as the NIS chief under the previous government of President Lee Myung-bak, has been sued by several lobor and civic groups for interfering in domestic politics by trying to manipulate public opinions ahead of last year's presidential race.

The dispute arose after an NIS agent was caught using various Internet identities to attack the then main opposition presidential hopeful Moon Jae-in ahead of the Dec. 19 poll.

Conservative ruling party candidate Park Geun-hye eventually won the race and took office late last month as the country's female first head of state.

"If he leaves the country for an overseas travel, it can only be to avoid being asked about questions raised in relation to several charges that have been leveled against him," the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) said in a statement.

DUP spokeswoman Kim Hyun said that Won's plan to leave the country less than three days after he left office can only be construed as an attempt to run away.

"It's unprecedented that a top government official who had access to the highest national intelligence leaves the country and stays overseas for an extended period of time," she said.

The opposition lawmaker said the ex-spy chief should be barred from leaving the country, so he can answer questions raised against him.

Won and the NIS have said there was nothing illegal about the agency's operations.

The minor opposition Progressive Justice Party also said that Won's plan to stay outside of the country can be construed as trying to help the incumbent Park administration.

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>