Cyber warfare official to be indicted over online smear campaign

SEOUL, Dec. 31 (Yonhap) -- A mid-ranking official of the military cyber warfare unit will be indicted on Tuesday on charges of launching an online smear campaign to influence last year's presidential election, the defense ministry said.

The director of the cyber command's psychological warfare team, identified only by his surname Lee, will face indictment without physical detention for ordering his subordinates to post politically biased writings and to destroy evidence, according to the military prosecution.

The indictment came after the military investigation team announced earlier this month its two-month probe into the case, which found the mid-ranking official Lee, along with 10 other lower-level officials, had posted some 286,000 writings against then opposition presidential candidate Moon Jae-in and his party on social networking sites.

It is in violation of their obligation as public officials to stay neutral, according to the prosecution.

The case is part of an extensive election meddling scandal that has been a source of prolonged political wrangling for months. The National Intelligence Service and other public offices have also allegedly been involved in the scandal, prompting rival parties to jointly push for reforming the spy agency.

"Lee's case, however, will be forwarded from the military commission to a civil court, as he retired in the day due to the age limit," said defense military representative Kim Min-seok.

More cyber warfare officials are expected to face punishment for their involvement in the election-meddling campaign depending on the analysis of data retrieved from Web pages, according to sources.

The cyber command was created in 2010 to counter North Korean hacking attempts in light of growing security threats in cyberspace.

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