Hacking Scandal Tops Sex Scandals in South Korea

Dec 9, 2011 10:54am

SEOUL, South Korea

South Koreans have been reveling in a series of scandals that have titilated and angered them.

There was the prosecutor caught accepting a Mercedes-Benz and a Chanel bag from her lawyer boyfriend in exchange for legal favors. Both were married.

Then there was a former Miss Korea who became a prominent TV host  who had a sex video posted by a vengeful ex-boyfriend.

But what has shocked the country was the allegation — confirmed by police today — that a 27-year-old assistant to a ruling party lawmaker masterminding a cyber attack on Korea’s election watchdog’s website.

These distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) on government domains frequented in the past few years were thought to have been and at times proved to have been carried out by North Koreans, spearheaded by heir apparent Kim Jong-Un, son of leader Kim Jong-Il.

But on Oct. 26, Seoul citizens getting ready to go to the polls to elect a new mayor found that the National Election Commission website showing information on voting booth locations was inaccessible. The homepage of opposition candidate, Park Won-soon who later was elected, was also hacked.

The allegations began last week and today police concluded that the aide identified only by the surnamed Kong  was responsible for the cyber-assaults.  Kong, according to police, confessed to having hired three hackers and a fourth man to help the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) candidate get elected by confusing young voters — who were strong backers of opposition Park Won-soon — from finding polling places before going to school and work.

Suspicions remain because DDoS attacks involve hundreds of computers depending on the size of the target server. Hiring specialist hackers is expensive, way above what an average aide in a political party could afford alone.

“These hackers require risk costs in case getting caught, sometimes from tens of thousands of dollars to up to hundreds of thousands,” said Lim Jongin, professor of Information Security at Korea University.

The opposition Democratic Party believes that the cyber-assault was backed by GNP officials. “Police ignored public request to find who were behind the scenes. They instead covered it up by swiftly ‘cutting off the tail’ of the allegations,” said spokesperson Lee Yong-Sup.

Public anger over the past week forced the head of ruling conservative party to step down today. In a desperate measure to stop the fast-sinking support, the party is also considering ideas to disperse and revamp with a new name. South Korea elects parliamentary members in April and a new president in December next year.

ABC News’ Sooyun Yum and Seoyoung Cho contributed to this report

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