Focus on intelligence
Most advanced and well-informed states separately operate domestic and overseas intelligence networks.
“Global Trends” is a publication the U.S. National Intelligence Council issues every five years that analyzes trends and forecasts worldwide developments in a span of 15 years. The latest “Global Trends 2025” was released in 2008. It warned against a rapidly aging world, rife with deepening polarization, weakened central international leadership, dwindling energy and food resources, incessant regional conflicts, and an outdated international organization system. It concluded that international leadership would be more important than domestic politicking in the globalized world.
Korea elects its 18th president on Dec. 19 who will be responsible for the country’s direction for the next five years. Unfortunately, none of the three main candidates have yet presented a vision for the country’s commitment to the global order. They are entirely preoccupied with domestic affairs - democratizing and balancing the economy and increasing welfare benefits as well as reforming education, the prosecution and investigative authority.
The main opposition party emotionally reacts and calls it a conspiracy to use the North Korean factor to appeal to conservative voters when the ruling party accuses it of keeping silent on North Korean human rights or other North Korean affairs.
Today’s world is embroiled in fierce competition and tension to protect individual state sovereignty and national interests. Yet our aspiring leaders have not once touched on the subjects of exploring space, the two extreme poles, sea routes to the North Pole, global economic order, international organizations or non-state security threats. They neglect the fact that values like economic democratization and welfare can be upheld only on solid security grounds.
The prolonged stagnation in the global economy and strained international relations amid rising nationalism and protectionism pose a challenge to the incoming president. The new president inevitably will encounter historic tests from a potential full-blown global economic crisis, security or safety threats from terrorists, drug trafficking or climate disasters, and possibly regime collapse in North Korea in the aftermath of a power struggle between hereditary leader Kim Jong-un and the military elite.
South Korea fared poorly in accessing intelligence against the secretive North Korea and its Workers’ Party regime. Modernizing and reinventing the state intelligence system according to the rapidly changing global times is imperative for the president if he or she wants to get ahead in cutthroat international competition.
A national intelligence system would serve as a compass pointing in the direction of defending our country in the merciless and unpredictable sea of international competition. Its importance in national security and public safety is unmatchable with law enforcement forces as it needs to serve as a sensor and watch tower in a lookout for national viability and potential opportunities for sustainable development.
The first thing to be done to revamp the national intelligence system is to separate the organs in charge of national and overseas intelligence. Most advanced and well-informed states separately operate domestic and overseas intelligence networks. In the case of the United States, it operates the independent Central Intelligence Agency to oversee intelligence activities on foreign relations and national security. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is under the Justice Department to serve as the internal intelligence agency. By running two agencies separately and competitively, the U.S. has become the world’s most advanced intelligence state.
Other intelligence-savvy nations - Britain, France, Germany, Israel, Russia and India - also separate overseas and domestic intelligence activities because they require different approaches and cultural understanding.
The overseas intelligence arm needs to serve as both a think tank that gathers and analyzes strategic information from every corner of the world and a special task force working on secret spy activities. Meanwhile, the internal intelligence agency should focus on information and surveillance on hostile forces that threaten national security. It needs to be armed with the country’s best investigative power to wage a battle not only against conventional spies, but also against shadow spies undermining community safety, terrorism forces, illegal trafficking of drugs, and weapons and industrial spies.
The domestic arm should be realigned to forge a close network and working relations with police and the prosecution. The ongoing contentious debate about giving police greater investigative authority and creating an independent investigative body on senior public officials is secondary. Creating a supreme national intelligence agency running separately with the foreign intelligence body is the solution to protect the country from various hostile forces and set the direction for sustainable development.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff
* The writer is a professor of Dongguk University School of Law.
by Han Hee-won