Moon infuriates Saenuri with NIS probe call

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Moon infuriates Saenuri with NIS probe call

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Witnesses swear an oath yesterday in the National Assembly before testifying at a hearing into allegations that the National Intelligence Service staged smear campaigns against the Democratic Party candidate in last year’s presidential election. Officials from the central spy agency were hidden behind a screen in order to protect their identities. [NEWSIS]

Tensions between the ruling and opposition parties escalated yesterday following a defeated presidential candidate’s remarks that an independent probe is needed to investigate the national spy agency’s alleged interference in last year’s presidential election.

“Some from the Democratic Party again made an absurd demand,” Representative Choi Kyung-hwan of the Saenuri Party said yesterday in a party leadership meeting. “They argued that the ongoing special hearing at the National Assembly is not satisfactory so an independent counsel must be sanctioned, but I believe that is truly ridiculous.”

Choi pointed to the fact that a trial is currently underway after a prosecution probe and that the National Assembly is also conducting its own investigation into the allegations that the National Intelligence Service interfered in the December presidential election. Reminding the Democrats that they supported the prosecutors’ indictments, the key associate of President Park Geun-hye dismissed the growing demands from the main opposition party for an independent probe.

Representative Yoo Ki-june, another Saenuri leader, also condemned the Democrats for hosting street rallies to encourage the public to challenge the presidential election.

“Some participants chanted things like impeachment, resignation and invalid election,” Yoo said. “The Democrats are trying to split public opinion by supporting those who reject the outcome of the presidential election.”

He also criticized Representative Moon Jae-in, the DP candidate who lost to Park in the presidential election. “Moon maintained the appearance of being a mere spectator of the current situation, while blaming the Blue House and protecting the interests of the Roh Moo-hyun faction,” Yoo said. “As a former DP presidential candidate, Moon must remember it’s not appropriate for him to hide behind the street rallies while trying to control the situation with irresponsible remarks.”

The Saenuri criticism was sparked by comments Moon made on Sunday at a memorial event for the late President Kim Dae-jung.

Asked why he didn’t participate in the party’s demonstrations denouncing the National Intelligence Service for allegedly running an online smear campaign to sway public opinion against him, Moon said he didn’t do so because he was a presidential candidate and didn’t want to become a burden to the Democrats. “I believe President Park is the only person who can resolve this,” Moon said. “She should apologize for the current situation, dismiss National Intelligence Service director Nam Jae-joon, lay bare the truth about the NIS interference in last year’s presidential election and the NLL politicking, and hold the responsible people accountable.”

The NLL scandal that Moon mentioned refers to a series of controversies surrounding the 2007 inter-Korean summit between then-President Roh Moo-hyun and then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Before the presidential election, the Saenuri Party accused Roh of disavowing the Northern Limit Line, the de facto western maritime border, at the summit, while the Democrats denied the claim and condemned the Park campaign for having used a confidential record to gain political advantage. Moon was Roh’s chief of staff at the time of the summit.

The scandal eventually led to the unprecedented revelation of the NIS transcript of the summit, on Nam’s order. To verify what Roh actually said, a group of lawmakers from both parties searched the National Archives to find the original transcript of the Roh-Kim dialogue. They came back with the shocking conclusion that the confidential record had disappeared.

“The ruling and opposition parties have agreed to the National Assembly investigation into the NIS, but as you can see, it has had many limits in laying bare the truth,” Moon said. “If it does not proceed properly, I believe we must uncover the truth at all costs, if it takes an independent counsel probe.”

Moon then said an independent counsel must investigate not only the NIS’s December election smear campaign, but also other issues involving the NLL controversy.

Moon’s remarks were backed by another DP lawmaker. In an interview with MBC yesterday, Representative Park Beok-kye said an independent probe is needed to look into new allegations that have been revealed by the prosecution investigation and the National Assembly hearings.

He said the probe needs to be independent to ensure neutrality because the allegations to be investigated involve core members of the Park administration. He said it would be difficult for the prosecution to conduct a fair investigation into the political scandals under the leadership of Park appointee Chae Dong-wook.

While the ruling and opposition parties wrestle over Moon’s demand, the National Assembly hearing for a group of witnesses from the National Intelligence Service failed to proceed as scheduled.

The special hearing began at 10 a.m., but the two sides failed to agree on whether or not the witnesses should testify behind a screen to protect their identities. Although the two sides initially agreed that the witnesses would remain anonymous, the DP then said that there is no reason to protect the identities of some retired officials. Later in the afternoon, some witnesses gave testimony behind the screen.

The two sides have also failed to agree on whether or not to call two key Park associates as additional witnesses. While the DP insisted that Representative Kim Moo-sung and Kwon Young-se, Korea’s ambassador to China, be called, the Saenuri Party again rejected the demand. Kim and Kwon were top campaign managers for Park during the election. The special National Assembly investigation is scheduled to end Friday.



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

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