A very troubling espionage caseSouth Korea’s upper political echelon has been struck by an espionage probe with the suspects ranging from politicians and scholars to labor activists.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said it has already arrested five and is questioning 40 others suspected of espionage and following orders from the North Korean Workers’ Party. Nothing has been proven yet and the investigation is still underway. But it is shocking to learn that such acts may have penetrated the political circle.
Among those arrested is the former aide to National Assembly Speaker Lim Chae-jung of the Democratic Party. The suspect was a dissident activist who entered politics with Lim in 1988. He is suspected of heading capital espionage operations for North Koreans since the early 1990s.
A host of politicians from the Democratic Labor Party are also under investigation. About 10 city and district councilmen as well two incumbent district government heads are also targets of the probe.
A National Assembly speaker’s aide for state affairs is a key post in politics. The speaker holds the legislature’s top position and his state affairs aide acts on behalf of the speaker for access to various confidential information. The aide’s opinion can influence the speaker’s judgment on key affairs as well as legislative activities. With a suspected spy in such an important position, we can’t even begin to imagine what harm he might have done.
Despite the gravity of the issue, the response from the opposition camp has been knee-jerk resentment.
Opposition Democratic Party politicians are claiming that the raid and investigation are overly oppressive acts by the government and ruling party, while emphasizing that their party is not connected with the case.
Nobody should jump to conclusions until the prosecution fully investigates the matter. Authorities should proceed with the probe with resolution and transparency to stave off any political controversy. The opposition should fully cooperate and refrain from turning the case into another political campaign.
Prosecutors have been investigating the case for months but should continue to look around and find out all the facts before gearing up for another political fight.
It is possible that pro-North policies, without fair and clear perspective, can breed espionage.