The fox is guarding the henhousePresident Park Geun-hye demanded reform of the National Intelligence Service, which has been under fire for its political activities. At a meeting with her senior secretaries at the Blue House, President Park urged the top spy agency to return to its original job: Gathering intelligence against North Korea, coping with rampant cyberattacks at home and abroad as well as protecting our economic security.
The president also ordered the NIS to devise its own ideas for reform. The response came after the intelligence agency had allegedly been involved in posting pro-Park messages on the Web during her December presidential election campaign and disclosing the behind-closed-doors conversation between former President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il at a 2007 summit in Pyongyang. Last month, President Park stressed that she had not received any help from the NIS in the last presidential election, adding that if she did, the government should clear all suspicion.
A day after the transcript of the dialogue between the two leaders was released, Park also said we should not forget that a countless number of our young soldiers lost their lives to protect the Northern Limit Line on the tense maritime border in the Yellow Sea. As the controversy over the extensive NIS meddling in domestic affairs didn’t subside, however, the president ordered a massive revamp of the spy agency.
Whatever the background, we welcome Park’s emphasis on reshaping the NIS. But it remains to be seen if the intelligence agency can really change as the NIS is supposed to reform itself with its own initiatives. You can hardly expect the agency to revamp itself. It’s like letting the fox guard the henhouse.
Apart from the agency’s unlawful involvement in an election during the previous administration, the decision to declassify the secret summit conversation and disclose it was made by director Nam Jae-joon, who was appointed by Park. His decision was politically inappropriate to the extent that even the foreign press dubbed him the “leaker” or “provocateur.”
What the spy agency needs is an outside shock to cure the chronic disease of serving the interests of an incumbent power. It would be much better for the president to establish an independent committee to correct the malaise once and for all. Park said it’s regrettable to see all the chaos still prevail even six months after the election. But it is actually the people who regard the situation as regrettable. Park must re-establish the spy agency before it’s too late.
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