Park urges spy agency to devise reform plan

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Park urges spy agency to devise reform plan


President Park Geun-hye yesterday made a rare comment about the scandal surrounding the National Intelligence Service over its alleged interference in the presidential election, ordering the nation’s main spy agency to come up with a self-reform plan.

In her meeting with senior secretaries in the morning, Park deplored that the nation is still concerned with the NIS’s alleged interference and late President Roh Moo-hyun’s alleged disavowal of the western maritime border during his 2007 inter-Korean summit, although the election happened six months ago.

She made an unprecedented remark in ordering the spy agency to come up with a detailed self-reform plan to end its scandal-ridden behavior and concentrate on its original mission.

Park said the truth needs to come out about the alleged operation of an online smear campaign against her opponent Moon Jae-in.

“Since the ruling and opposition parties began a National Assembly probe, the allegations must be thoroughly revealed and efforts should be made to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents,” Park said. “Once that happens, this wasteful debate must end and the political parties must work to improve the people’s livelihood.”

Park made another rare comment about the growing scandal over the Northern Limit Line, or the de facto maritime border between the two Koreas in the western sea.

During Park’s presidential campaign, the Saenuri Party claimed that Roh had disavowed the border during his meeting with then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2007. Moon was Roh’s chief of staff at the time.

As the controversy continued, the NIS declassified the transcript of the secret summit dialogue and released it to a handful of lawmakers earlier this month. The National Assembly voted last week to sanction the legislature’s unprecedented access to the National Archives’ record of the same conversation for verification.

“If we hand the NLL over to North Korea, we cannot protect the safety of our citizens,” Park said yesterday. “If it is breached, we can lose our territory in a split second. That’s why our youngsters have defended this border with their lives.

“It is, therefore, extremely regretful to see controversy flare up over this important border to defend our land,” Park said, “but I hope this scandal must serve as an opportunity for the politicians, who represent the people, to state their will to defend the NLL more clearly to stop any further controversy and split of opinions.”

Park said the NIS must completely overhaul itself and refocus on North Korea and cyberterrorism.

“Since the past administrations, the NIS has often stood at the center of many debates,” Park said. “I believe the NIS must be reborn, using this opportunity.”

“The NIS is established to serve the security of the country and the people,” Park said. “The NIS must come up with its own self-reform plan to strengthen its intelligence gathering against North Korea, the most important mission amidst the confrontation between the two Koreas, to fight cyberterrorism and to protect economic security.”

Park’s rare comments on the scandal surrounding the NIS came as the opposition Democratic Party stepped up its campaign to challenge the legitimacy of her presidential victory.

On Sunday, the Democrats held a massive rally in Gwangju to denounce the NIS’s alleged political operation, following similar protests in Seoul and Gyeonggi last week. The DP said it will hold more rallies this week around the country.

On Sunday, DP Chairman Kim Han-gill said the largest opposition party will uphold Korea’s democracy and constitution by laying bare the illegal interferences of the intelligence authorities in the December presidential election.

Other Democrats used more cruel words to condemn the NIS and Park, while another lawmaker mentioned the possibility of Park’s resignation.

“Nixon stepped down for eavesdropping on his rival’s campaign office,” said Representative Lim Nae-hyun. “In our country, more serious interventions in the election and subsequent cover-up of the probe took place. Unless responsible measures are taken, I have to warn that there will be a protest to invalidate the election.”

Park’s rare comments on the spy agency’s alleged political intervention and the NLL controversy also showed that she wants to distance herself from the scandal as much as possible.

Instead of ordering her government to act on it, Park stressed the importance of the National Assembly probe and the NIS’s self-reform efforts.

Liberal opposition politicians yesterday said Park’s comments were unsatisfactory.

The Democratic Party said yesterday that Park must issue a public apology before the people and state clearly her intention to overhaul the spy agency, instead of mentioning the issues at the Blue House secretariat meeting.

Representative Ahn Cheol-soo, an independent lawmaker and former presidential contender, also said yesterday that Park’s remarks were nothing more than a simple reiteration of her principles.

After hosting a discussion session on the NIS reform in the morning, Ahn told reporters that Park’s request for the NIS’s self-reform has its limits and she must present her intention to overhaul the spy agency.

“If she wants, she can fire NIS Director Nam for having released the transcript right now,” Ahn said.

BY SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]



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