February 9, 2015 / 9:23 AM / 3 years ago

Former South Korea spy chief gets jail for election meddling

SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean appeals court sentenced a former head of the national spy agency to three years in jail on Monday for meddling in the 2012 presidential election and helping Park Geun-hye win the vote.

Won Sei-hoon (C), former chief of South Korea's state intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), arrives at a parliamentary investigative committee at parliament in Seoul August 16, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

The Seoul High Court said Won Sei-hoon, who served as director of the National Intelligence Service from 2009 to 2013, used the agency “for activities against a particular (opposition) political party”, Yonhap news agency reported.

He neglected “the duty of political neutrality and meddled in the political-decision making process allowed to voters”.

Court officials could not immediately confirm the details of the ruling.

Park has denied she benefited from the agency’s employees trying to sway voters, but last year in the wake of another scandal she conceded more has to be done to reform the agency. The then spy chief later resigned.

Critics of the agency have called for changes to make it more independent.

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.

The intelligence service has since undergone two name changes and numerous organizational reforms in a bid to shed the image of a political tool of sitting presidents and to focus more on counter espionage against North Korea.

Reporting by Jack Kim and Kahyun Yang; Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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