Sunglasses and vanityThe behavior of Korea’s national intelligence agency chief has caused controversy and it has diminished the standing and dignity of Korea. Koreans must feel frustrated when they hear about Kim Man-bok’s behavior. In Afghanistan, Kim, the director of the National Intelligence Agency, pushed himself forward too much. His agency even handed out press releases that praised the director’s work in the hostage negotiation process.
Even before the hostage crisis Kim had revealed his identity and his achievements. He sent a large wreath to his hometown and publicized his mobile phone number. He invited many people from his hometown to visit the intelligence agency. All these acts are contrary to the behavior we expect from the head of the national intelligence agency. The director of an intelligence agency is supposed to work discreetly. He has damaged his organization’s integrity and the country’s reputation. At the same time, he has burdened the president who employed him.
Kim must be brooding over his imprudent acts. He must even be thinking about stepping down. But on Tuesday, he made flimsy excuses and tried to blame the media. He said he feels terrified of the media. But it was the media and the people who were terrified by his behavior in Afghanistan. He had pictures taken wearing sunglasses and with hostages by his side. He also had a press conference. This is an unthinkable act for the head of an intelligence agency. Young employees of the National Intelligence Service know that discretion is their most important rule. They must have been disappointed to see their leader behave so recklessly.
Kim complained that the media keeps spreading rumors that he will run for political office, even though he has denied having any such intention. If that’s so he should make sure his behavior is above suspicion. Sending flowers to his hometown is a politician’s stunt.
His predecessor did not want Kim as his successor. He thought Kim’s behavior made him unsuitable to run the intelligence agency. Now it seems he was right. However, President Roh Moo-hyun has praised Kim for making a contribution to solving the hostage crisis while putting his life at risk.
It was the hostages who were in danger, not Kim. The president and Kim seem to have no idea how an intelligence agency must be run. It is hard to be confident that the upcoming summit meeting in Pyongyang will turn out well when this type of intelligence agency chief will be involved as a top aide.