[EDITORIALS]Clear air on top spyAt the National Assembly’s confirmation hearing on the appointment of Ko Young-koo as the head of the National Intelligence Service, both ruling and opposition lawmakers expressed expectations and concerns. Lawmakers counted on Mr. Ko’s zeal for reform to clear away the intelligence service’s dark past of political tampering, wiretapping and human rights abuses. But they showed deep consternation on Mr. Ko’s ideological tendencies and inexperience in intelligence.
Mr. Ko emphasized that he would halt investigations driven by politics, abuse of investigatory powers and infringement on human rights. He promised to focus the service on collecting intelligence abroad. Mr. Ko spoke of the need for outside checks on the intelligence service. To say the least, restructuring the organization, shifting employees and duties, is inevitable.
Internal reform is important, but our concern is more fundamental. We wonder if Mr. Ko is the right candidate for the nation’s top intelligence job. Previously, Mr. Ko, an attorney, defended Kim Nak-jung, convicted of espionage, as a pacifist. Mr. Kim was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of accepting $2 million from Kim Il Sung, the late North Korean leader. Mr. Ko led a civic group demanding the release of Mr. Kim. Such a past is not suitable for the nation’s intelligence chief.
Mr. Ko also worked to restore the honor of a unification advocacy group that the Supreme Court said was an anti-state organization. His past made the ruling and opposition lawmakers uneasy about Mr. Ko’s political identity. Mr. Ko was not appointed to lead a human rights body; he will be handling enormous amounts of intelligence about North Korea. He must provide a clear explanation for his past activities and sweep away doubts about his political identity.
Anti-U.S. and pro-North allegations stain this government. Public distrust of the head of the intelligence service will create unimaginable chaos. We want to emphasize once again that the National Intelligence Service and the military are the last fortresses defending our nation’s security.