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EX-NIS official receives 2-yr jail term for illegal surveillance

All News 15:35 January 03, 2019

SEOUL, Jan. 3 (Yonhap) -- A former ranking official of the spy agency was sentenced to two years in prison Thursday for illegally surveilling a former presidential investigator during the Park Geun-hye administration.

The Seoul Central District Court handed down the verdict to Choo Myeong-ho, the former head of the National Intelligence Service's (NIS) national interest intelligence department, saying Choo illegally surveilled special presidential inspector Lee Seok-su at the instruction of Woo Byeong-woo, then-presidential secretary for civil affairs.

Choo Myeong-ho arrives at Seoul Central District Court to attend his final trial on Jan. 3, 2019. (Yonhap)

Earlier, Choo was indicted for illegally spying on public servants, activists and celebrities deemed critical of the conservative government. Woo was sentenced to 18 months in prison last month for committing the same illegal act through the spy agency. Prosecutors believe Woo instructed the NIS to conduct illegal surveillance on Lee when he began a probe into Woo's alleged irregularities.

"The accused abused his power with intent to neutralize special inspector Lee's investigation into Woo, and the illegal surveillance was just for Woo's private interest," the court said of Choo.

Woo Byeong-woo is released from jail on Jan. 3, 2019, after the court decided not to extend his detention. Woo has started two separate appeals trials, over illegal surveillance and power abuse, for which he was sentenced to 1 1/2 years and 2 1/2 years, respectively. He was jailed on Dec. 15, 2017. (Yonhap)

On the same day, Choi Yun-su, a former NIS deputy director, received a suspended eight-month jail term from the same court for having been involved in drawing up a blacklist of cultural figures critical of the Park government in order to exclude them from the culture ministry's financial assistance.

"It is admitted that Choi instructed his team to continue the illegal act, although they recommended he stop the work to select such figures and notify the ministry of their list," the court said.

Choi Yun-su answers reporters' questions after attending his final trial at the Seoul Central District Court on Jan. 3, 2019. (Yonhap)


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