[EDITORIALS]A challenge for RohPresident Roh Moo-hyun’s appointments to lead the National Intelligence Service are facing a serious challenge. After hearings on Ko Young-koo as director of the intelligence agency, the National Assembly’s intelligence committee yesterday, backed by both major political parties, recommended against Mr. Ko. Mr. Roh now must decide whether to respect the National Assembly’s opinion or ignore it and go ahead with Mr. Ko’s appointment. We believe that Mr. Roh should respect the National Assembly’s view in light of the purpose of appointment hearings.
The committee was alarmed by the fact that Mr. Ko is not an intelligence expert and was part of a movement to scrap the National Security Act. He displayed sharp ideological leanings in working for the release of the North Korean spy Kim Nak-jung in the early 1990s. The committee also took issue with the selection of a Sangji University professor, Suh Dong-man, also lacking experience in the field and with North Korean sympathies, to lead a task force on reform of the agency.
We support the committee’s judgment that in philosophy and experience the two men are not qualified to serve an intelligence agency that is, along with the military forces, the last fortress defending our freedom and democracy. There is no reason to give the job to a nonprofessional of questionable ideology at a time of utmost importance when cooperation with U.S. intelligence is essential as we face North Korea’s nuclear threat.
The agency’s leadership must be filled with people the public can trust, so that it may be put back in order and allowed to focus on securing the national interest. Mr. Ko and Mr. Suh are better suited for other responsibilities. The fact that their nominations are creating concern is incompatible with Mr. Roh’s policy of putting the best hand in the right place.
The committee’s opinion is not legally binding. But politics is. Rather than take the recommendation as a challenge to his authority and integrity, Mr. Roh should respect it in the greater picture of national security. That is the way to help the National Intelligence Service, and it will go a long way toward a good working relationship with the National Assembly.