[EDITORIALS]More spy agency questions

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[EDITORIALS]More spy agency questions

Doubts and speculations are mounting over the case of a North Korean defector, Yoo Tae-joon. Suspicions began to grow originally about how the man was able to return to and then escape again from the North. Now we wonder about the South Korean authorities handling of the event and whether or not they were involved in the matter. As the situation grew murkier, the National Intelligence Service announced late on Thursday that some of Mr. Yoo's statements at an earlier press conference were not true. The spy agency said it is reinvestigating the case, but there is growing bewilderment and the beginning of anger about the way the case is developing.

Mr. Yoo said he had been imprisoned in a North Korean detention camp and released upon North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's special order that "a man who loves his wife loves his country." Honestly, who could possibly take those words at face value? Yet the public believed Mr. Yoo's testimony because he held a press conference after the National Intelligence Service had interrogated him. The government officials in charge of this case evidently knew that Mr. Yoo was telling lies at the press briefing, but they did not contradict him for a full day. By doing so, the government abetted the spread of speculation and doubt.

Now suspicion is beginning to grow about why government officials let Mr. Yoo tell his lies. Did the government plan to stay silent unless the press pointed out the discrepancies in Mr. Yoo's story? The National Intelligence Service must investigate this case thoroughly and clear up the doubts. Because the agency has already lost public trust after the covered-up murder of Susie Kim, the people can easily suspect that it is hiding something again.

The intelligence service should tell us how Mr. Yoo managed to enter and escape from the North again, and why China deported Mr. Yoo to the South immediately after arresting him, unlike other North Korean defectors who are sent back to the North. Moreover, the government should explain why Mr. Yoo had a new passport, although the government said it had issued only a less formal travel document to him.

The government should resolve all doubts about this case and punish those responsible for handling the case carelessly.

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