DP leader raises opposition to bill to reform NIS

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DP leader raises opposition to bill to reform NIS

Just a day before the last plenary session of the National Assembly for this year, the opposition Democratic Party leader Kim Han-gill yesterday raised opposition against the blueprint for reforming the National Intelligence Service, which both the ruling Saenuri Party and Democratic Party had tentatively consented to earlier.

The special committee under the Assembly for overhauling the top state spy agency, which has been slammed for political interference including an online smear campaign before the presidential election last year, consists of lawmakers from both parties who came up with the plans.

“I have been reported details of the agreement produced by the special committee,” said Kim at a press conference yesterday afternoon. “To tell you the conclusion in the first place, I cannot accept them.”

The tug-of-war between the two parties has been ceaseless since the committee was launched earlier this month. While Democrats would like to legally impose restrictions on the NIS, Saenuri has maintained that revising internal regulations is sufficient, as changing amendments in the NIS act could constrict the officers’ radius of action.

The opposition leader wants to ban intelligence officers from frequenting government institutions to collect information in addition to the National Assembly, political party venues and media outlets, which the committee has included in the list. “I cannot condone the fact that the committee has skipped restricting intelligence officers’ unjust information-gathering activities through accessing government agencies. This is what President Park Geun-hye and Saenuri leader Hwang Woo-yea promised at a trilateral meeting with me in September,” he said. “When even the minimum level of promises is not dealt with, I will fight with the citizens till the end by mobilizing the entire power of the party to reform the NIS to the fullest and to introduce special counsel to investigate the agency.”

He contended that the country should legislate to punish those NIS officials who stage political activities in cyberspace. The special committee only specified that intelligence officers are not allowed “illegal intelligence-gathering activities.”

But Saenuri would not budge either, claiming the Democrats have come up with a “far-fetched demand.” “It is hard to understand that the [Democratic] party leader destroys an accord in the middle of producing provisions after the party leaders were done with negotiations,” said Yoon Sang-hyun, deputy floor leader of Saenuri, in a press conference. “It is highly regrettable that the Democratic Party is trying to take advantage of the special committee for NIS reform as a link for a political warfare with Saenuri.”

The nonstop brinkmanship over the spy agency reform - when the last plenary session of the Assembly before the New Year for passing a slew of still piled-up bills is set for today - has raised the probability that the country will have to prepare a provisional budget, a worst-case scenario that is unprecedented in Korea.

A provisional budget would be set around the limitations of the previous year’s budget, with the goal of minimizing its size. Reviewing the budget bills at the plenary session only could take as many as 20 hours, according to an official at the Assembly, which may make it almost impossible for the lawmakers to pass them today.

The budget bills for this year were dramatically passed at dawn on Jan. 1 - the first time in Korea’s constitutional history that lawmakers missed the deadline. The Assembly already missed the deadline for passing the budget proposal for next year on Dec. 2 - marking the 11th straight year of violating the Constitution. The Constitution stipulates that the following year’s budget bills must be passed by Dec. 2, 30 days before the beginning of the new fiscal year. The lawmakers are currently in an extraordinary session.

BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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