A fiasco that never ends

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A fiasco that never ends

The National Intelligence Service takes pride in its motto of “Anonymous dedication to freedom and truth.” But the nation’s top spy agency is now at the center of a political struggle in broad daylight, fueling the controversy over its alleged intervention in domestic politics.

The intelligence agency issued a statement in which it said that former President Roh Moo-hyun disavowed the Northern Limit Line, the tense maritime border on the Yellow Sea, at his 2007 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. The agency interpreted a conversation between the two leaders as an agreement to pull out each other’s naval and marine forces from the zone between the Northern Limit Line (as claimed by South Korea) and the military border on the Yellow Sea (as claimed by North Korea). Such an agreement would be as serious as withdrawing our armed forces from the land demarcation line to the area below the horizontal line connecting Suwon, Gyeonggi and Yangyang, Gangwon in order to transform the space into a joint management zone, the agency explained.

After carefully reading the transcript of the summit meeting, however, we are convinced that President Roh stopped short of directly expressing a will to give up or surrender the NLL, although he made very inappropriate remarks about the NLL.

After creating a huge political maelstrom by disclosing the existence of a transcript of the closed-doors talks between the two leaders, the top spy agency also came up with an arbitrary interpretation of it. Then it declassified the transcript, saying it wanted to quell any further controversy. On the contrary, that only intensified the political firestorm.

Even the ruling Saenuri Party has criticized the agency for “intentionally committing an act benefitting the enemy by persistently arguing that President Roh clearly disavowed the NLL.” The opposition Democratic Party has also accused Nam Jae-joon, the head of the agency, of disclosing a state secret for the third time since he sparked controversy last month. The opposition camp even demanded high-ranking officials under the Roh and Park Geun-hye administrations - including National Security Office head Kim Jang-soo, Foreign Minister Yoon Byung-se and Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin - tell the whole truth. We are dumbfounded at such alarming developments in our political circles. The NIS does not deserve any prestige as the nation’s top spy agency. This never-ending fiasco calls for a thorough reform of the agency. The ruling party must join the efforts to revamp the agency.

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