NIS probe will question former spy, police chiefs

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NIS probe will question former spy, police chiefs

The ruling and opposition parties yesterday agreed to question a former intelligence director and former Seoul police chief at a special hearing next week about their roles in the National Intelligence Service’s alleged interference in last year’s presidential election, while leaving two key allies of President Park Geun-hye out of the line of fire.

Representative Kweon Seong-dong of the Saenuri Party and Representative Jung Chung-rae of the Democratic Party discussed who should testify before lawmakers about the alleged politicking by the nation’s main spy agency during last year’s presidential campaign. The two sides agreed yesterday to summon 29 people including former National Intelligence Service director Won Sei-hoon and former Seoul police chief Kim Yong-pan.

The National Assembly is running a special probe to end a lengthy political dispute over allegations that the intelligence agency operated a smear campaign against the DP’s presidential candidate last year. The lawmakers are also looking into allegations that the Seoul police tried to muffle its own investigation into the scandal.

The National Assembly’s probe was scheduled to wrap up on Thursday, but little progress was made due to squabbling by the two sides over witnesses. The Saenuri and Democratic parties agreed earlier this week to extend the probe to Aug. 23 and scheduled hearings to call witnesses starting next week.

Won and Kim will be questioned Wednesday, the two parties agreed, while the rest of the witnesses will be asked to testify on Aug. 19. The 29 witnesses included Democratic Party Representative Kang Gi-jung and former and current intelligence and police officials.

Witnesses who fail to testify will be called again Aug. 21. The two sides said additional witnesses whom they will agree on later will also be summoned on that day.

The two sides continued to disagree over whether to call Representative Kim Moo-sung, and Kwon Young-se, Korea’s ambassador to China, as witnesses or not. Kim and Kwon worked as top managers on the Park campaign.

The DP insists they testify, the Saenuri Party adamantly refuses. In a press briefing, DP’s negotiator Jung said the two sides will continue negotiating over Kim and Kwon.

“I want to stress once more that the witnesses we could not agree on are Kim and Kwon,” Jung said.

The Democrats claim Kim and Kwon must be questioned because they had access to a confidential transcript of the 2007 inter-Korean summit before the presidential election and used it to sway public opinion in favor of Park. The DP suspects that the National Intelligence Service, which was under the leadership of Won at the time, provided the confidential transcript to the Saenuri Party.

During the weeks leading up to the election, the Saenuri Party attacked the DP candidate Moon Jae-in by associating him with the summit between President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Moon was Roh’s presidential chief of staff. Roh was accused of disavowing the western maritime border during his talk with Kim in Pyongyang.

The two political heavyweights deny that they had any access to the confidential transcript.

The summit controversy has raged for months and the ruling and opposition parties agreed last month to leave it out of the National Assembly probe into the NIS.


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