SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea's defense ministry is making guidelines of psychological warfare operations for its Cyber Warfare Command as part of efforts to reform the scandal-ridden unit to stay politically neutral, a senior military official said Thursday.
The latest move comes as suspicions have grown over the role of the secretive unit, which was created in 2010 to defend against North Korea's cyber threats, as several officials came under investigation over posting political messages against the then opposition camp candidate ahead of last year's presidential election.
"The rules are aimed at providing standards for cyber warfare officials and other soldiers," the ministry official said on the condition of anonymity. "Once the rules are made, they could be used as guidelines."
Defense chief Kim Kwan-jin earlier stressed the need to conduct psychological warfare operations in cyberspace to counter Pyongyang's attempts to spread its propaganda online.
Opposition lawmakers, however, warned of the possibility of the command getting involved in domestic politics by personally attacking some left-leaning politicians or liberal leaders as "supporters of North Korea" in social networking sites and major portals.
The scandal in the cyber command comes at a time when the ruling and opposition parties have been locked in a heated political showdown for months over similar allegations involving the state spy agency.
Opposition lawmakers have raised further speculation that the command has jointly conducted a smear campaign with the National Intelligence Service, which has also come under the prosecution's investigation for illegal electioneering.
Military investigators are currently looking into whether four officials who were found to have posted online messages were acting on their own accord or under orders from the upper military ranks, vowing to expand the investigation if needed.