[EDITORIALS]Tarnish on the Kim legacyThe investigation by the prosecution has shown that the directors of the National Intelligence Service in the Kim Dae-jung administration were involved in illegal eavesdropping. An investigation team from the Seoul Central Prosecutors Office yesterday arrested Kim Eun-seong, a former deputy director of the agency, on charges of illegal eavesdropping and said that two former directors, Lim Dong-won and Shin Kun, had collaborated in the program.
The agency’s announcement on August 5 confirmed that illegal eavesdropping was carried out during President Kim’s administration. But the former heads of the agency denied flatly any involvement, calling rumors of their involvement “a groundless story that is beyond imagination.” They visited Kim Seung-kyu, the current director, to protest, and even suggested that they might take action in protest. When they were the heads of the agency, they denied doing any eavesdropping when suspicions were raised by politicians or the press. Mr. Shin said during a National Assembly inspection of the administration in September 2001 that eavesdropping was “done under previous administrations, but there is clearly none now.” Now that they are charged as collaborators, we wonder what they will say.
The reality of the eavesdropping in the Kim Dae-jung administration, as disclosed by the prosecutors, is bizarre. Wiretapping teams could listen to 3,600 phone calls at a time with six sets of telephone tapping equipment connected to relay stations. They eavesdropped on cell phone conversations with a device that could mimic any cell phone number. They could do any tapping that the deputy head of the intelligence agency approved, so they tapped nearly at random. They recorded the conversations of about 10 prominent figures and reported to their superiors the contents of the conversations of seven or eight of those people.
Politicians, businessmen and senior government officials were among those they listened in on. They were clearly intervening deeply in politics.
President Kim endured many hardships in earlier administrations as the target of spying, and therefore emphasized the importance of human rights when he was in office. But his administration continued to infringe on human rights here, leading to anger about the two-faced policy.
The prosecutors must find out whether Mr. Kim reviewed the transcripts. We need to ensure that such crimes do not recur and that the right to communicate freely is respected.