Leaks Showing US Spied on South Korea Spark Outrage in Seoul

Yoon's government is downplaying the leaks, but opposition lawmakers are looking for answers

Pentagon documents that surfaced online that revealed the US was spying on South Korean officials have sparked outrage from opposition lawmakers in Seoul while the government of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol is downplaying the leaks.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the documents show the contents of a conversation between two of Yoon’s top aides. They were discussing concerns about selling ammunition to the US as they were worried that if the US transferred the weapons to Ukraine, it would violate Seoul’s policy of not sending arms into an active war zone.

US and NATO officials have been pressuring Seoul to arm Ukraine. The two officials discussed how it would look domestically if South Korea changed the policy as Seoul announced Yoon was planning a visit to Washington at the end of April. One official suggested a way around the issue would be to sell 330,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition to Poland with an agreement that Warsaw would be the end user but knowing the ammo would eventually end up in Ukraine.

According to The New York Times, opposition lawmakers in South Korea called the revelation that the US was spying on the officials “a super-scale security breach” and said it violated Seoul’s sovereignty.

“If it is true that they have spied on us, it is a very disappointing act that undermines the South Korea-US alliance, which is based on mutual trust,” said Lee Jae-myung, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party.

Yoon’s government is insisting the revelation shouldn’t impact US-South Korea ties and claimed Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin decided during a call on Tuesday that “quite a few of the documents in question were fabricated.”

But US officials speaking to media outlets have said the leaked documents are authentic and only suggested one related to Russian and Ukrainian casualties was doctored, but only after it was posted online. As of Tuesday night, there’s been no confirmation from the Pentagon that they agreed with Seoul that “quite a few” of the documents were fabricated.

Since coming into office in May 2022, Yoon has strengthened the US-South Korea military alliance as they have resumed massive war games on the Korean peninsula, raising tensions and provoking more North Korean missile tests. Yoon likely hopes to strengthen the alliance even more in his upcoming trip to Washington, where he’s expected to address Congress, and doesn’t want a scandal to impact his plans.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.