[FORUM]Two principled leaders for KoreaJustice Minister Kang Gum-sil has gotten some praise to the effect that she is better than 10 male ministers put together, and those words came from the opposition party leader. The praise was in response to her efforts to dispel any talk of compromise on the highly unpopular Railway Workers Union strike.
Ms. Kang had also initially opposed the special investigation into the secret funds transfers to North Korea before the summit meeting in 2000, but later had supported the extension of the investigation. On both issues, the minister took a view contrary to that of President Roh Moo-hyun. Ms. Kang shows the signs of being a principled woman with a firm sense of integrity.
Ko Young-koo, head of the National Intelligence Service, has issued a guideline promising prizes to staff members who can catch a spy. This is quite a change from his background as a left-leaning human rights lawyer who once reportedly said North Korean spies were people working for peaceful unification of the two Koreas. Mr. Ko has also permitted public activities by Hwang Jang-yop, the most senior North Korean official to defect to Seoul. Despite the president’s announcement that he would no longer receive private reports from the intelligence agency, Mr. Ko has told his staff that he would report to the president whenever there was something he felt needed to be reported. Such activities of Mr. Ko have led a prominent opposition lawmaker on the Intelligence Committee of the National Assembly to call him a “man of moral fiber.”
The reason I praise these two officials, Ms. Kang and Mr. Ko, who have been in their offices for only a few months, is that the Ministry of Justice and the National Intelligence Service are the two bulwarks of national security and discipline. The two agencies are institutions central to guarantee the free democratic order and legal system of this country. Unless those agencies do their jobs well, the foundation of the country will shake. We only need to look back to the Kim Dae-jung administration to realize that. In Mr. Kim’s days, both agencies were used as private tools and thus created many problems that we are still trying to deal with or which are only now being uncovered.
It is the job of Ms. Kang and Mr. Ko to free their agencies from political influence and restore and develop their original functions. That should be the beginning and the end of the reforms they should pursue. The most important task that the two officials must perform is to liberate their agencies from the dark past when they were used as the handmaidens of the president. Should Ms. Kang and Mr. Ko transform their agencies into institutions that the people can trust, they would contribute much to the progress of our country into a mature democracy.
The biggest test the two organizations will face is next year’s legislative elections. Should the National Intelligence Service get publicly or secretly involved in the elections, and should the prosecution handle election allegations unfairly, the reforms will have been for nothing. It is my hope that Ms. Kang and Mr. Ko keep in mind that the seriousness of such problems would go beyond the personal criticism they would receive; our country’s progress would be harmed.
If the National Intelligence Service has the function of alerting us to dangers to our national security, the Ministry of Justice and the prosecution have the functions of establishing legal order when it is disrupted.
Mr. Ko must reinforce this alerting function of his agency for the future of our country. His agency should concentrate on collecting and analyzing information not only for maintaining the present national security but for the further development of our country. That should allow the president to review all necessary information before he makes a final decision on important issues. The agency should especially sound the alarm on any corruption of central government figures. Another priority is restoring the trust of counterpart intelligence agencies in allied countries.
Ms. Kang must punish the forces that disrupt legal order. She must focus her efforts on protecting the independence of the prosecution so that the country is not thrown into chaos by the corruption of power. She must be especially strict in implementing the law on allegations of corruption among those close to political power.
Ms. Kang and Mr. Ko must keep in mind the mistakes of their predecessors, whose actions damaged our free, democratic society. The former director of the National Intelligence Service, Lim Dong-won, will now finally face the day of judgment by law. There is no need to reiterate numerous allegations made against the previous government that the prosecution has silenced and muffled in an effort to protect the regime.
The justice minister and the intelligence chief must remember that their jobs have only begun, and that the integrity and principles that they have shown us in their early days in office will be tested even more strongly in the future.
* The writer is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Sioux Lee