Home > Freedom of Expression, Rule of Law > “Big Brother is Watching You”: You might be the victim of the government surveillance

“Big Brother is Watching You”: You might be the victim of the government surveillance

Myungsun Kim

The prime minister’s office explained it was simply a “mistake.” They called the government’s alleged inspection on a civilian named Kim Jong-ik who posted on his blog a video image of slander against President Lee Myung-bak and his policies—a “mistake.” Kim said to the press during prosecutorial inspection that “[his life] is totally destroyed by the government power” and that they knew he was only a civilian. The “mistake” has resulted in a tragic effect on the life of a civilian and his family and friends; however he is not the only one to face governmental action.

According to the MBC “PD Notebook” which released an episode titled “Why this government inspected me?” Government employee Lee In-Kyu and his team searched Kim’s office where he worked as a subcontractor of a major bank and pressured the bank to stop doing business with Kim. The case was then transferred to the police who interrogated Kim on charges of embezzlement and libel against the president.

The prime minister’s office defended itself by explaining that they mistakenly thought Kim was working at a government-run bank and by attacking Kim for being a central figure of Nosamo, an internet-based group organized as a fan club of the former President Roh Moo-hyun, for purportedly helping Lee Kwang-jae, the elected Governor of Gangwon Province who coincidently shares the same hometown with Kim.

Against the office’s claim, Chung Yong-in, a journalist of the Weekly Kyung-hyang raises questions in his article dated July 16: “But what if Kim had really worked at a government-run bank? What if Kim was actually a central figure of Nosamo and helped Governor Lee? Can the government’s illicit investigation on a civilian be justified then?”

After a few unsuccessful efforts to cover up the issue, the prime minister’s office faced a prosecutorial investigation for the first time on July 9. Four of its staff members were referred for a prosecution probe, including Lee In-kyu, a senior official in charge of inspecting ethics-code violation by public officials. The special investigation unit of the Seoul Central Prosecutor’s Office will summon Lee In-kyu on July 19 for further investigation.

The Kim Jong-ik case is only the tip of the iceberg?

Hong Soon-chang, who took part in the Patriotic Candle National Solidarity and Convention of Democratic Citizens of All Parts, said to the Weekly Kyunghyang that he felt goose bumps when he found out the informational evidence of how much he spent at a restaurant on a date was prepared for his investigation when he was summoned by the prosecutor’s office. “At that time we did not know about it but they were stalking us and collecting every speck of information…There were people who asked me to remove their phone numbers from my cell phone.”

Joongang Daily presents a similar account in which the government abused its investigative power. A fifty-year-old who is in a printing business made a video last June commemorating former President Roh’s death. After three months someone who proclaimed himself to be a member of the “Seoul Central Prosecutor’s Office” asked him whether he was part of Nosamo or whether he was a “Chin-Roh” (a Korean acronym indicating a person who is in favor of former President Roh). The man then “threatened” that he could be legally charged with violation of patent law, and the crime of embezzlement and libel.

According to the article, the Democratic Party also publicized some of the provided accounts on the government’s illegal inspection of civilians on July 12. Among these was an account in which the private firm that hired the officials who had worked for the Roh Administration received pressure and eventually fired them.

On May UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Speech and Expression, Frank La Rue, was probed and shadowed by a car, which was revealed to have been the property of the National Intelligence.

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