[FOUNTAIN]Tamer of the beast?Information is a living organism. It continuously exchanges, competes and evolves, and its end is to protect the community from enemies inside and out. The National Intelligence Service, with several thousands of well-trained experts moving actively like cells, is like a bio-organism. The agency exists by making itself invisible. It has to, in order to approach the enemy. But at times, this organism reveals itself, turning into a violent beast.
Whether the intelligence agency is a guardian angel of the community or a beast that corrupts community values depends on its expertise and morality.
As the central intelligence agency transformed from the Korean Central Intelligence Agency to the Agency for National Security Planning to the National Intelligence Service, it was the military brass that upheld the institution. The agency has seen 27 directors, including Ko Young-koo, the new head. Of the 27, 20 were former military men.
Those from the military showed an exceptional ability to nab spies, but some also met tragic ends. Kim Hyung-wook disappeared and Kim Jae-kyu was executed for murdering former President Park Chung Hee. Kim Gye-won, Chun Doo Hwan, Chang Se-dong and Kwon Young-hae spent time in prison. Lee Hu-rak is recorded infamously as the mastermind of the abduction of Kim Dae-jung in the 1970s. Familiar with a strong chain of command, these military men controlled the agency effectively, but their brimming confidence led to their tragic ends.
Civilian chiefs such as Shin Chik-soo, Lho Shin-young, Bae Myung-in, Seo Dong-kwon, Kim Deok, and Shin Kuhn worked within legal boundaries. But they faced criticism for failing to foresee the North Korean bombing in Rangoon and the death of Kim Il Sung respectively.
It takes quick wits and good instincts to manage the agency. Lawyers and other civilians may not have the experience to do so. But under civilian direction, the agency was less violent and less a beast running free.
The National Assembly raised questions about lack of expertise in intelligence and a left-leaning ideological bias when Ko Young-koo, a former human rights lawyer, appeared before it after having been named to head the agency. We hope he will be pragmatic and keep the beast leashed. The Assembly found no ethical flaws, so we should give him a chance.
by Chun Young-gi
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.