Bickering disrupts NIS probe

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Bickering disrupts NIS probe

Clouds loomed over the National Assembly’s probe into the spy agency’s alleged interference in the presidential election after two ruling party lawmakers abruptly quit the investigation committee and pressured the opposition party to follow suit.

Representatives Chung Moon-hun and Lee Cheol-woo of the Saenuri Party yesterday held a press conference and announced their decision to step down from the special committee to investigate the National Intelligence Service’s alleged interference in last year’s presidential campaign. The nation’s main spy agency was accused of running an online smear campaign against Representative Moon Jae-in, the presidential candidate of the opposition Democratic Party.

On July 1, the National Assembly created a committee to conduct its own probe into the scandal for 45 days.

The two Saenuri lawmakers said they quit because the Democrats questioned their fitness to join the investigation.

The Democrats protested against Lee because he is a former NIS official. They said Chung triggered the controversy over whether former President Roh Moo-hyun disavowed the Northern Limit Line, the de facto border with North Korea, at a summit in Pyongyang in 2007. That led to the NIS declassifying a transcript of Roh’s meeting with Kim Jong-il at the summit, which enraged the Democrats.

Lee and Chung said the Democrats were using their pasts as a political attack and quit the committee to end any further disputes. They then singled out two DP lawmakers on the committee and said they should quit too.

They said Representatives Kim Hyun and Jin Sun-mee should resign because they were directly linked to the ongoing investigation by the prosecution into the same scandal.

On the eve of the presidential election, a group of Democrats, including the two lawmakers, staged a sit-in outside the apartment of a young female worker of the NIS, accusing her of having participated in the online smear campaign against candidate Moon.

The Saenuri lawmakers said Kim and Jin should be witnesses testifying before the committee, not members of the committee itself.

The DP yesterday sneered at the Saenuri Party’s move. “Representatives Kim and Jin were the heroes who uncovered the illegal intervention of the NIS in the presidential election,” said Representative Jung Chung-rae, the DP’s top member on the committee. “The Saenuri Party’s argument is like thieves asking the police to stop investigating them.”

As the political bickering heated up, the committee’s work seemed likely to be affected. The two parties originally planned to decide a list of witnesses and the scope of the probe today.

The two parties were also engaged in a series of complicated legal battles as their lawmakers filed defamation suits against each other over the NIS scandal.

As the controversy showed no sign of fading, President Park asked the NIS to present a plan for self-reform focused on intelligence operations against the North, cyberterrorism and industrial espionage.

Moon, the DP presidential candidate defeated by Park, said yesterday that Park’s remarks were disappointing.

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