Spy agency falls shortThe closer the presidential election season gets, the more dubious the state spy agency becomes.
Kim Man-bok, director of the National Intelligence Service, admitted Tuesday that the agency keeps basic personal records about the two presidential candidates of the Grand National Party, but denied the existence of an “X-file” that could have been used against the candidates.
Even after an investigative report by the Korea Central Intelligence Agency, the predecessor of the NIS, about the relationship between Representative Park Geun-hye and Rev. Choi Tae-min, appeared on a GNP lawmaker’s Web site, the NIS head didn’t check into whether the report was genuine or how it was leaked.
Kim’s comments made it sound like it is normal for the agency to keep personal information about people, but it is not. People rightly question whether the intelligence agency, established for the sake of national security, should keep track of personal information about politicians. Some say, however, such information is needed when the government recruits new staff.
Still, such personal information can be accessed easily through government agencies such as the National Tax Service for tax records, the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs for property records, the Ministry of Justice for criminal records and the Blue House personnel department.
Keeping personal information does more harm than good to the country and the people. The information kept by the NIS has long been suspected of including details about the candidates’ personal remarks, human relations and private lives.
Under past military regimes, such information has been used to oppress dissidents and opposition politicians. Even the democratic administrations of Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung are suspected of having used such information to oppress dissidents.
The X-file, if it exists, is nothing but additional secrets to supplement the personal information.
The Roh Moo-hyun adminstration has emphasized the political neutrality of the spy agency more than any other adminstration.
The intelligence agency should get rid of the personal information, then go even further and investigate whether an X-file exists. If it does, the agency should hold whoever made it, responsible and then get rid of it.
The presidential candidates of the GNP need to be scrutinized. So does the government’s effort to reform the spy agency.