Howls for spy chief’s scalp after laptop grab

“원세훈 책임져야” 野는 물론 與도 ‘질타’

Feb 23,2011
Pressure mounted yesterday on Won Sei-hoon, head of the country’s main spy agency, to step down over an allegation that his agents were behind a botched operation to steal data from a visiting Indonesian delegation.

In a speech before the National Assembly yesterday, Democratic Party floor leader Park Jie-won demanded Won resign from his post at the National Intelligence Service.

“The National Intelligence Service has become a subject of ridicule because of its cliquish personnel affairs and obsession for accomplishment,” he said. The reference to cliquish personnel affairs relates to Won being President Lee Myung-bak’s political ally. Won served as deputy mayor of Seoul when Lee was mayor.

After three people broke into a hotel room of an Indonesian official on Feb. 16 and tried to steal a laptop computer, media reported they were National Intelligence Service agents. The NIS neither confirmed nor denied the allegations.

The Democratic Labor Party also urged President Lee to apologize for the fiasco and called for Won’s resignation.

The conservative opposition Liberty Forward Party also demanded that Won step down. “For behavior worse than that of a petty thief, the NIS was embarrassed even in its homeland,” said Park Sun-young, LFP spokeswoman. “Won must step down immediately.”

The ruling Grand National Party and the Blue House are staying tightlipped about the incident. Kim Hee-jung, presidential spokeswoman, refused to discuss Won’s fate.

While GNP spokesman Ahn Hyoung-hwan said lawmakers should deal with the incident delicately for the sake of the country, other GNP members bluntly attacked the NIS.

“The Cheonan’s sinking, the Libya [detainee] incident, the Yeonpyeong Island shelling and now the Indonesian delegation case,” Representative Hong Joon-pyo, a member of the GNP Supreme Council, wrote on his Twitter account. “It is time for the NIS chief to step down. I am embarrassed by the country’s main spy agency.”

Lawmakers on the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee will hold a session early next month to investigate the NIS’ alleged involvement at the request of the Democrats.

“It’s not the first time that the NIS has messed up,” said a lawmaker on the committee, referring to a diplomatic row with Libya prompted by an NIS spy operation in the country.

Last year, Libya accused an NIS agent of attempting to collect information on Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi and the country’s weapons systems. The agent was expelled in June, and two civilians were detained. The African nation also halted operations of its economic cooperation bureau in Seoul, which serves as a de facto embassy.

Other lawmakers said the NIS had embarrassed the military by revealing too much after North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong Island in November. During a briefing to lawmakers about the shelling, the NIS made public satellite images revealing that only 15 out of 80 rounds fired from South Korea’s K-9 self-propelled howitzers in response to the attack actually landed in the North. The inaccuracy of the South’s guns was fiercely criticized at the time.

Lawmakers said the latest fracas could have also been aggravated by competition and animosity between the country’s two main intelligence authorities, the NIS and the military’s Defense Security Command.

“Issues of conflict between the two intelligence authorities have long been raised,” said DP Representative Choi Jae-sung, a member of the Intelligence Committee. “So many interpreted the latest incident as the eruption of their conflict.”

A military official made the first report to the police about the break-in at the Lotte Hotel and attempted theft, which triggered the media to jump on the story. Insiders speculate the NIS may have been interested in learning about the progress of a potential sale of military trainer jets to Indonesia.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

Related Korean Article[머니투데이]

“원세훈 책임져야” 野는 물론 與도 ‘질타’

[홍준표, 정두언 최고위원 "창피한 일, 국정원장 물러나야"]

국가정보원의 인도네시아 특사단 숙소 잠입 파문과 관련 정치권이 한 목소리로 국정원을 강도 높게 질타했다.

원세훈 원장은 이번 사건에 책임을 지고 이 대통령에게 사의를 표명한 것으로 알려졌지만, 청와대는 22일 "원 원장의 사의표명 여부를 확인하기 어렵다"고 밝혔다. 하지만 여당 내에서 조차 "물러나야 한다"는 목소리가 적잖아 결과가 주목된다.

심재철 한나라당 정책위의장은 이날 원내대책회의에서 "우리나라 정보기관이 산업스파이를 하다가 적발됐는데, 뭐라고 할 말이 없다"며 "황당하다"고 국정원의 행태를 문제 삼았다.

홍준표 최고위원도 전날 자신의 트위터에 천안함 폭침, 리비아 (억류)사건, 연평도 피격 등을 나열하며 "우리나라 정보기관의 수준이 참 부끄럽다"며 "국정원장은 이제 좀 물러났으면 한다"고 인책론을 제기했다.

정두언 최고위원도 "특사단 숙소에 침입한 사람들이 국정원 직원이라면 창피한 일"이라고 말했다. 여당 의원들 다수는 "철저한 진상 조사가 우선"이라고 했지만 "창피한 일" "제대로 좀 하지…"라며 말끝을 흐렸다.

야당의 공세는 거셌다. 박지원 민주당 원내대표는 이날 원내교섭단체 대표연설에서 "특사단 숙소에 침입한 괴한이 최고의 정보기관이어야 할 국정원 직원들로 밝혀졌다"며 "국정원장을 해임하고 국민을 위한 국정원으로 만들어야 한다"고 주장했다.

국정원장을 지낸 신 건 민주당 의원은 "이 사건으로 국가의 품격이 훼손되고, 결과적으로 오히려 국익을 크게 해쳤다"며 "직원의 실수라고 넘어가기에는 외교적 파장이 너무 크다"고 지적했다.

신 의원은 "국회가 신속하게 정보위원회를 열어 국정원 개입 여부 등에 대해서 철저히 사실 관계를 확인하고, 국정원의 개입으로 밝혀진다면 국가안보를 책임진 정보기관이 오히려 국익을 훼손한 책임이 있기 때문에 그 책임을 가려야 한다”고 말했다.

자유선진당도 논평을 내고 "머리카락 한 올도 남기지 말아야 할 작전에서 실패한 국정원이라면 당장 해체해야 한다"며 "대통령의 최측근이라는 이유만으로 자리에 앉은 국정원장을 이참에 바꿔야 한다"고 촉구했다.

민주노동당은 "큰 외교적 분란을 불러 온 국정원장은 즉각 사퇴하는 것이 맞으며 대통령은 즉시 사과해야 한다"고 말했다.

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