NIS let off easy, lawmakers say

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NIS let off easy, lawmakers say

President Park Geun-hye’s apology on Tuesday concerning the fabrication of evidence by National Intelligence Service agents in a case involving a man alleged to be a North Korean spy prompted strong reactions from lawmakers, particularly because punitive measures were not taken against the agency’s chief Nam Jae-joon.

Senior Saenuri lawmaker Lee Jae-oh lamented on the administration’s accommodating attitude toward the nation’s top spy agency, writing on Twitter that Nam should step down.

“For the NIS to be completely recast, it should begin with the agency’s chief stepping down,” he wrote. “It makes me sad that none of the 154 lawmakers with the ruling party said it was necessary for Nam to resign.”

Representative Kim Young-woo, who led a gathering of one- and two-term ruling party lawmakers, expressed a similar opinion, telling his fellow politicians yesterday that letting Nam off the hook “gives the opposition room to attack the ruling party and the government, and eventually gives the NIS a harder time.”

Kim Han-gill, co-chairman of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), also unleashed a slew of acrimonious remarks, saying that the president’s arrogance and self-righteousness had granted extraterritoriality to the top spy agency.

“Aren’t you ashamed in the face of the people? Who is more important for the president - the people or the head of the NIS?” he said in a commentary directed at the president.

Kim again urged Park to lay off Nam and uncover the truth behind the evidence-fabrication scandal by launching an independent counsel investigation, a call he first made Tuesday following the president’s apology.

“She apologized, but she didn’t say she would take responsibility,” he said during the Supreme Council meeting at the National Assembly. “The NIS chief said he feels responsible from the bottom of his heart, but he never said he would take responsibility.”

NPAD Floor Leader Jun Byung-hun also criticized the president for siding with the NIS head.

“Holding Nam responsible has already been delayed at this point,” he said. “To avoid a worst-case scenario - even though it’s the second worst - [President Park] should fire Nam and appoint an independent special prosecutor.”

President Park’s warning during her apology that she would “definitely have [Nam] take responsibility should there be any other event in which the people’s faith in the NIS is compromised” signaled that the NIS head would be closely scrutinized.

Later in the day, Nam read a prepared public apology and bowed his head in the presence of the media at the agency’s headquarters in Seocho District, southern Seoul. Afterward, he left the venue without taking questions from reporters.

The fabrication scandal involves three NIS agents who worked for the Korean Consulate General in China - including one who worked undercover there - who were later indicted for falsifying three documents about the immigration records of Yu Wu-seong, a Korean-Chinese man suspected of spying for Pyongyang.

Yu came to Seoul in 2004 under the guise of being a North Korean defector and later worked for the Seoul government.

He was arrested and indicted in January 2013 over allegations that he was spying for the regime but was acquitted of those charges after prosecutors failed to submit substantial evidence to prove espionage.

The prosecution is currently preparing an appeal.

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



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