S.Korea spy found dead with note denying agency targeted citizens

A South Korean intelligence agent found dead in an apparent suicide left a note denying his team had used spyware to tap the mobile phones and computers of private citizens in the latest scandal involving the spy agency.

YONGIN, SOUTH KOREA (JULY 18, 2015) (TV CHOSUN) – South Korean police said on Sunday (July 19) that an intelligence agent found dead on Saturday (July 18) in an apparent suicide left a note denying his team had used spyware to tap the mobile phones and computers of private citizens in the latest scandal involving the spy agency.

“An employee of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) was found dead in his car of an apparent carbon monoxide poisoning,” Chief Superintendent of Yongin Dongbu Police Station Park Ji-young said at a news briefing.

Police also released the agent’s note to the media and confirmed the writing to be that of the agent’s. His identity or rank in the intelligence service was not disclosed.

“In his note, he said: ‘I believe excessive zeal for work has created this situation and there was no spying whatsoever against domestic citizens or related to elections,” Park said.

The case comes after a rare public admission that the agency purchased spyware from an Italian firm called The Hacking Team, but maintain it was intended for research or for use against foreign targets.

The revelation marks the latest in a series of scandals centred on the intelligence service, which has struggled to shed the image of being a political tool of sitting presidents and to reform to focus more on counter espionage against North Korea.

A former spy chief under President Park Geun-hye’s predecessor is fighting a guilty conviction for trying to influence the 2012 election that brought the conservative leader to power.

Park has denied benefiting from attempts by NIS agents to sway voters but said after another scandal at the intelligence agency last year that more could be done to reform it.

Park’s father, Park Chung-hee, was assassinated in 1979 by the disgruntled head of the agency’s precursor at the peak of a power struggle that involved the late president’s close aides.