South Korea: Spies, Tweets and Gags

Koreans protesting the 2012 election manipulation scandal and clampdown on labour groups on 28 December 2013.  Tweeted by Twitter user @zwarin

Koreans protesting the 2012 election manipulation scandal and clampdown on labour groups in Seoul on 28 December 2013. Tweeted by Twitter user @zwarin

Wifi is practically ubiquitous here. The country's Internet speed is one of the fastest around the globe. Its capital has been called the world's “bandwidth capital“. So it's no surprise that online platforms host the most robust discussions on politics, the economy and culture in South Korea. 

But courageous whistleblowers have revealed that this space is systematically being manipulated by the government.

The scope of the 2012 election manipulation scandal and the involvement of South Korea's top spy agencies truly appalled Koreans.

Since then, there have been clampdowns on labor groups, the government has accused critics of being North-Korean sympathizers and the overall environment in the country is increasingly hostile towards Korean journalists.

For more than a year now, South Koreans have been protesting government manipulation and interference in freedom of speech online, inside and outside the country. 

Election manipulation scandal
During the 2012 December presidential election, the National Intelligence Service, the state's top spy agency, sent 1.2 million tweets and the Defense Ministry’s Cyberwarfare Command sent 23 million tweets to swing public opinion in the government's favour. These messages not only attacked opposition candidates, but also anyone critical of the government was branded as ‘pro-North Korea”,

The road ahead
Tens of thousands have continued protests and several courageous whistle-blowers have made major revelations relating to the scope of manipulation and intimidation.Still, the roads ahead still seems dark.

Some of the key players of the election manipulation scandal have escaped nearly unscathed; there is an ever-tightening control of online platforms, including online games, music and cultural sites; and an ongoing clampdowns on labor groups, dissenting voices, and any media group critical of the government.


20 Jan South Korea Accused of Rewriting History in High School Textbook
02 Jan South Korean Authorities Discredit Dissenting Voices as ‘Not-Real’ News

28 Dec PHOTOS: 100,000 South Koreans Protest Election Scandal, Labor Clampdown
24 Dec PHOTOS: Brutal Crackdown by 4,000 South Korean Police is Epic Failure
21 Dec PHOTOS: Protesting South Korea's Election Manipulation in New York, Paris, London
20 Dec We Are Not Fine!’ Posters Go Viral at South Korea's Universities
18 Dec South Korea's ‘Gas Tank Grandpas’ Block Protests in US
9 Dec The Man Who Helped Reveal South Korea's Election Manipulation Online
28 Nov South Korea Retaliates Against Outspoken Catholic Priest with ‘Pro-North’ Accusations
25 Nov South Korea's Spy Agency, Military Sent 24.2 Million Tweets to Manipulate Election
23 Nov Is South Korea Encouraging Portal Sites to Self-Censor?
30 Oct South Korea Wants to Regulate Online Gaming Like Drugs and Alcohol
24 Sep South Korean Catholic Leaders Protest Spy Agency Scandal
11 Sep South Korean Film Questioning Warship Sinking Pulled from Theaters
23 Aug Special Probe into South Korean Spy Agency's Electioneering Falls Flat
05 Jul Protests Erupt in South Korea Over Spy Agency's Electioneering
01 Feb South Korea's Spy Agency Takes Criticism to Heart .. and Court
14 Jan South Korean TV Networks Shun Politically Active Actress

19 Nov Confessions of Paid Political Trolls in South Korea


  • Newstapa (Korean Center for Investigative Journalism): an independent news site set up by journalists who left mainstream media to keep their journalistic integrity, has done an extensive investigation on the election scandal.
  • Interactive Timeline set up by net users, explains the complicated election manipulation scandal
  • Top-notch infographic with embedded links to original documents about the case by the Kyunghyang newspaper, a well-known progressive media outlet.

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