History stirs new suspicions of NIS

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History stirs new suspicions of NIS

South Korea’s state spy agency and its prosecutors face a major credibility crisis; they are accused of framing a North Korean defector on espionage charges by forging documents. In a new development, a key witness attempted suicide after being questioned by prosecutors, leaving a note saying he handed over forged documents about Yu Wu-seong, a former North Korean defector who was employed by the Seoul city government and has been charged with spying. The records were allegedly about Yu’s travels to North Korea in 2006. China has already claimed the documents are not authentic. Prosecutors must investigate thoroughly and get to the bottom instead of playing games the truth.

A man identified only as Kim, an ethnic Korean with Chinese nationality, obtained Yu’s immigration records for the Korean spy agency. He was questioned by prosecutors three times, and before he committed suicide he left a letter to his sons telling them to collect money from the NIS. He claimed the NIS owed him 6 million won ($5,654) for two months’ work and a 10 million won fee for forging the documents. Kim had testified to prosecutors that he cooked up papers with the seals of a Chinese local government office at the request of a NIS employee.

Prosecutors launched an investigation after taking his testimony. The NIS admitted that Kim had worked for the agency, but denied any involvement in the forgery. It claimed that it too had been deceived. But it is hard to believe that Kim would have dared to fabricate materials and attempted a scheme against the NIS. If it does not clearly explain how it obtained documents from China about Yu, the NIS cannot escape suspicion that it ordered the forgery.

Evidence tampering is serious. If the intelligence authority did so to build its case, how can the rights of the people be protected? Any such actions should be punished severely. But the prosecution has been dragging its feet even after the Chinese Embassy in Seoul said the documents were not issued by China.

The case underscores the point that the NIS still has a secret police legacy from the authoritarian regime days. The agency must keep a strong watch on spy activities and threats to national security, but it must not break any laws. The prosecution also should be responsible for indicting suspects and sending them to trial after thorough investigations. If the prosecution cannot reveal the truth, it will be necessary to appoint a special investigator to find the truth.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 8, Page 30

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