Corruption vs Privacy in Korea

Biggest news out of Korea in the past few days is the leak of illegal recordings of conversations between Hong Seok-hyun, Korea's current ambassador to America, and Samsung officials (Hong and Samsung's chairman are related by marriage) for a few months preceding 1997 Korean Presidential Election.


The recorded conversations were about distribution of illegal campaign funds to Lee hwae-chang, former judge and the favorite conservative in the election. The money was coming from Samsung but the delivery was being made by Hong, in cash. The really disgusting part is that Hong was then CEO of Joong-Ang Ilbo, one of the biggest Korean newspapers. So what we have is a billionaire and owner of a major newspaper giving illegal money to a former judge. If that's not corruption, I don't know what is.


Here is the other side of this fascinating coin: the recordings were made illegally by a government agency: National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Korean equivalent of CIA. It turns out there are more than 8000 such recordings made by a secret NIA unit called Mirin which had 3-400 agents working around the clock to record conversations of key Korean businessmen and politicians. They started with wiretapping and bugs but moved on to recording cellphone conversations.

The kicker is that this illegal activities started under Kim Young-sam and supposedly continued under Kim Dae-joong, both of whom suffered wiretapping and more by dictators in thier pursuit of democracy in Korea.

Now the problem is what to do with all that recording. If you had to choose between revealing corruption and protecting privacy, which would you choose? While the ideal solution is to have someone upload the recordings accidentally, but I doubt that will happen, not with Korean cyberpolice's uncanny ability to track hackers down.