Time to revamp spy agencyIn a rare and immediate move following stern remarks from the president, prosecutors raided the headquarters of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) amid allegations that its agents fabricated evidence to charge a former North Korean defector for espionage. The scandal snowballed after a man questioned in the case alleged before attempting suicide that he was paid by the state spy agency to forge documents to show that Yu Wu-seong, a North Korean defector who worked for the Seoul city government, made unauthorized visits to the Communist state to receive orders. In a senior secretariat meeting, President Park Geun-hye expressed displeasure toward charges against the nation’s top spy agency and ordered a quick and thorough investigation to uncover the truth. She said any wrongdoings would be dealt with strongly, indicating that she will not tolerance illegalities in the case.
The scandal should not be approached with political implications before the June local elections. The heart of the problem is a serious credibility crisis in the national system associated with justice and security. If a government agency tampered with key court evidence, it has undermined law and order and compromised its credibility in national intelligence affairs. No citizen can be protected if a mighty government agency wields its power to fix evidence in a court case. The National Security Law stipulates a strong punishment for anyone caught forging, hiding or destroying evidence.
Arguments from the NIS have so far been questionable. After the Chinese Embassy in Korea previously confirmed that the documents presented to the court against Yu were not authentic, the NIS claimed they were obtained through the Consulate General of Korea in Shenyang. Then it admitted that it did not request the documents from Chinese authorities, but still denied forgery. It also gave a lame explanation that seals can look different. And amid these developments, we have heard nothing from NIS chief Nam Jae-joon.
We will have to wait for the results of the investigation to know how involved the NIS was. If the agency knew about individual agents’ actions, then it collaborated in hiding the evidence. If it didn’t, the agency is simply unreliable and incompetent. Nam should have already apologized to the public. The agency in charge of safeguarding national security and intelligence activities against North Korea cannot work without staunch public confidence. Regardless of the investigation’s outcome, senior-level officials cannot avoid taking responsibility. The secretive and opaque spy agency must revamp itself and become more transparent. We demand responsible actions from Nam.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 11, Page 30