In spy case, NIS is the focus of new investigation

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In spy case, NIS is the focus of new investigation

The prosecution officially launched an investigation yesterday to determine how documents used as evidence by the nation’s top spy agency in an espionage case involving a civil servant were fabricated and who forged them.

Prosecutors previously questioned a Korean-Chinese man, identified only by his surname Kim, who was involved in the case and allegedly worked with the NIS. Investigators believe he may have provided one of the falsified documents to the spy agency.

Kim attempted suicide Wednesday in his motel room, leaving behind a note that implied the NIS had a hand in falsifying the documents. He told his children in the note that the NIS owed 10 million won ($9,418) for the fabricated document and owed him a 6 million won wage, according to the prosecutors.

At the scene, authorities also discovered Korean words scrawled on the wall in blood, which may have been written by Kim, that denounced the credibility of the NIS. The blood was removed, however, immediately following an on-scene investigation.

Kim is currently in the hospital in intensive care.

Based on the note found at the scene, prosecutors - who up until then had been focused on a fact-finding mission - said yesterday they would reorganize their team to look into possible breaches by the spy agency, as well as whether it ordered the fabrication or was aware that the document was forged. Investigators suspect the NIS requested that Kim provide the falsified document.

The prosecution is not ruling out the possibility that the agency coordinated their story with Kim, citing that Kim’s statements were identical to those of the NIS during questioning but that he later changed his testimony during the investigation. Authorities believe Kim tried to kill himself out of fear that he would be forced to bear all responsibility for the falsification of the document.

For the past several months, prosecutors have been involved in an espionage case against North Korean defector Yu Wu-seong, 34, who is alleged to have given information about other defectors to superiors in the reclusive state. Yu was acquitted of those charges in a trial last year after prosecutors failed to submit substantial evidence to prove he visited North Korea for espionage activity.

The prosecutors requested Yu’s official immigrant records from the NIS, though the documents submitted by the agency were later found to have been forged.

According to the prosecutors, in his note, Kim asked President Park Geun-hye to reform the nation’s top spy agency. He also warned Kim Han-gill, chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party, and independent lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo not to take advantage of his death for political use, and argued that Yu was, in fact, a North Korean spy.

The NIS released a statement later yesterday insisting it was unaware that the document had been fabricated. It said its agents submitted the document to the court, believing Kim’s word that he had received it from the proper authorities in China. The agency also stated that it had already paid Kim the 10 million won it owed for the paper.

The reaction to the case from both political parties has so far been mixed.

“[The NIS] can remove the writing in blood on the wall but cannot hide the truth of the fabrication,” said Jun Byung-hun, the DP floor leader. “The prosecution should hand over the case to the special prosecutors who are the only ones who can eliminate the public’s suspicions.”

The ruling Saenuri Party, meanwhile, was cautious in its response.

“...What is more important is the espionage case,” said Park Dae-chul, spokesman of the Saenuri. “It would be seen as only a political offense if [the DP] was trying to distract people from the more important matter.”

BY KIM BONG-MOON AND JUNG HYO-SIK [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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