Bloomberg News

South Korean Spy Agency Apologizes for Secret Wiretappings

August 05, 2005

South Korea's spy agency apologized for secretly wiretapping telephone calls for years, a practice revealed by the leak of a taped conversation involving an alleged payment made by Samsung Group to presidential candidates.

In a statement posted today on the National Intelligence Service's Web site, Director-General Kim Seung Gyu said the agency taped the conversations of prominent politicians for years until March 2002. President Kim Dae Jung was in office at that time.

``We believe an honest confession is the only way to wipe out our dark past and regain public confidence,'' Kim said in the statement. ``Illegal wiretapping has been completely eradicated since March 2003. We don't need it anymore, nor do we intend to do so again.''

On July 21, Munhwa Broadcasting Corp. revealed the existence of taped conversations between Hong Seok Hyun, a brother-in-law of Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun Hee, and a top executive at the business group in 1997. The conversation sparked allegations Hong may have acted as a courier for Samsung to dole out slush funds to presidential candidates.

Hong, who was president of JoongAng Ilbo at the time before being named South Korea's envoy to the U.S., has offered to resign the ambassadorship. Samsung Group, South Korea's largest industrial group, apologized July 25 for the scandal, but didn't confirm or deny the existence of the slush funds.

Samsung Group spokesman Yim Jun Seok said today that Samsung was monitoring the situation. The National Intelligence Service said an agency employee illegally taped the conversation and leaked the tapes for personal gain, according to the agency's Web site.

To contact the reporters on this story: Wonjung Park in Seoul at wpark1@bloomberg.net; Sangim Han in Seoul at sihan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bill Austin at billaustin@bloomberg.net


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