[EDITORIALS]Who’s listening in?

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[EDITORIALS]Who’s listening in?

Information and Communication Minister Chin Dae-jae said at a National Assembly hearing, “With 20 sets of wiretapping devices, the National Intelligence Serive can tap the conversations of a thousand people at most.” He added that “more than 37 million people subscribe to mobile phone service” and that “it is not me who makes people uneasy, but those [in the National Assembly] who talk about wiretapping.” This shows clearly that the cabinet minister in charge of communications has a poor grasp of the seriousness of the wiretapping issue.
As communication minister, it is his duty to apologize if even a single citizen’s freedom of communication is violated. It is a pity to see him not apologizing, but busying himself with changing his position to avoid the allegation that he has borne false witness. What’s more, Mr. Chin tried to pin the cause of the people’s anxiety on the wrong people. It is not lawmakers who raise questions but the government that has failed to apologize and reflect upon itself that has made people uneasy.
Recently, President Roh Moo-hyun has proposed nullifying the statute of limitations on crimes by state agencies. Wiretapping by the intelligence service is a typical case of the abuse of state power. Private conversations at restaurants were tapped, and 274 tapes of such conversations exist. And the spy agency has admitted that it has even wiretapped mobile phone conversations. Moreover, the position of current government is that a special law should be passed so those tapes’ contents can be revealed.
The spy agency violated the Protection of Communications Secrets Act. What is urgent is that wiretapping be eradicated. That is why we demand that all previous information ministers be held to account for giving false statements. If the government fails to apologize and demonstrate the will to examine the past wrongdoings, it will be hard to ease the people’s anxiety.
Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-woong told lawmakers he takes precautionary measures when using a mobile phone. “Over a phone, I talk only about private matters,” he said, “no confidential matters at all.” We are living in a country where even a serving minister cannot be sure his phone is secure. To have an intimate conversation, it seems we have to drive down to Busan. We question whether freedom of communications can be guaranteed by this administration.
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