[VIEWPOINT]Don’t overreact to the scandal

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[VIEWPOINT]Don’t overreact to the scandal

The chaotic social situation created by the illegal wiretapping by the National Intelligence Service is becoming even more complex. The controversy can essentially be divided into three separate issues.
The first is how to deal with the past criminal activities committed by the intelligence service and its predecessor. The government cannot insist that people obey the law while it commits crimes itself. Regardless of the reason for the past wiretapping, the government has to solemnly apologize to the people for its illegal activities, and hold those who were involved responsible for their crime by punishing them strictly.
Considering the permanency and perpetuity of the government, the most urgent necessity is that the present government apologize and ask for the forgiveness of the people before it begins a discussion of which administration is responsible for the wrongdoing.
After all, the current administration is the successor not only to the former administrations’ achievements, but also of their wrongdoings. Since these crimes were committed by the national intelligence service, which is directly under the president, the current president must show the broadmindedness to repent the crime and beg for forgiveness as if the problem were his own.
The second issue in this controversy is how to deal with the recordings of private conversations that were made by the national intelligence agency and are now in the hands of the prosecutors. There are probably a great many opinions on this, but one thing that is clear is that these tapes should not be used for political purposes. Illegal tapping is itself the product of political conspiracy; a public figure who used the fruits of that criminality for his own advantage could hardly be spared the criticism that he is taking part in a political conspiracy himself.
The tapes should be used only as evidence to prove that the illegal wiretapping was committed. They should not be used for any other purposes. Our criminal law clearly states that illegally obtained evidence cannot be used in an investigation, nor to establish guilt. A prosecutorial investigation based on illicit tapes would be like a house built on a stolen foundation.
What’s more, our Constitution clearly states that “human dignity and value” are fundamental principles, and it guarantees the individual right to privacy and the pursuit of happiness as basic human rights. Revealing the contents of the illicit tapes without the consent of those who were recorded cannot but violate the victims’ fundamental, basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
The third issue is how to deal with the National Intelligence Service, which was responsible for the original crimes. First of all, it needs to be made clear whether this illegal tapping was officially ordered and carried out through the normal channels of command and reporting. If wiretapping was agency policy, then the intelligence service has to assume overall criminal responsibility. If it was the act of a rogue faction within the organization, the agency still has to take the political and moral responsibility for its failure of supervision and control.
But it would not be in the national interest to use the wiretapping scandal as an excuse to tar the National Intelligence Service as a criminal organization that does nothing but spy on the people. The agency’s work is often carried out under extreme circumstances, to safeguard the safety and the interests of our country.
Because much of what it does could damage the nation’s image or cause diplomatic conflict if made public, the agency adheres strictly to the rule of secrecy. That is why its agents have to take the secrets of their work to their graves, no matter what. When it comes to their work, they have to go by the rule of “No Pride, No Explaining and No Complaining.”
We also have to face the fact that, in the cold reality of the world today, there are no foreign intelligence organizations that do not wiretap, when it is necessary for their country’s safety and its interest. If the present scandal results in a division of the public opinion and the disarming of the National Intelligence Service, we would deserve the criticism that we had burned down our house in trying to kill a housefly.

* The writer is the chief managing attorney at Ace Law Group. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Park Sei-kyu
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