Regaining public trust

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Regaining public trust

President Park Geun-hye nominated Korean envoy to Japan Lee Byung-ki as the new director of the National Intelligence Service. He replaces former chief Nam Jae-joon, who stepped down to take responsibility for major scandals that have undermined the reputation of the spy agency. The president’s security and intelligence lineup will be realigned if Lee and defense minster nominee Han Min-koo receive legislative approval. The new NIS chief comes from a diplomatic background rather than military, unlike his predecessors. Lee served the spy agency as a special adviser and deputy director in the overseas division. He worked behind the scenes in the operation to bring Hwang Jang-yop, then the highest-ranking North Korean defector who had been the architect of North Korea’s official state ideology Juche, to South Korea in 1997.

Lee has a difficult mission as new helmsman of national security. He must spearhead long-delayed reforms in the spy agency. The office is in the midst of its worst crisis because of its involvement in a smear campaign against the opposition presidential candidate during the 2010 election and accusations that its agents framed a North Korean defector as a spy. Its political neutrality has been questioned and the agency lost public confidence as the result. Lee must enforce stringent reforms on the agency so that it serves the country as a whole and not a particular political power. An intelligence agency loses its place in the country if it does not have the support and respect of the people. Lee must first prove that he is free of any political connections.

Along with reforms, he must strengthen the capabilities of the spy agency. Agents’ attempts to fabricate evidence against a North Korean defector underscored how desperate and incompetent local spy agents can be. The agency also displayed its ignorance of overseas intelligence affairs. Human and infrastructure resources must be overhauled in order to boost the agency’s primary function of intelligence gathering. Promotions, appointments and incentives should be based strictly on performance and expertise. Devotion and competitiveness cannot be expected from agents working in the shadow whose morale and pride are shattered.

The new NIS chief also should reexamine North Korean policy. The hawkish stand of his predecessor interfered with a flexible response to North Korea. Lee is well versed on North Korean affairs, having served as President Roh Tae-woo’s protocol secretary. As ambassador to Tokyo, he must be aware of recent developments in the Japan-North Korea relationship. We hope he will contribute in finding a breakthrough in inter-Korean relations within the context of denuclearization.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 11, Page 30

Correction and rebuttal statement by the Evangelical Baptist Church

The Korea JoongAng Daily, regarding the reports since April 16, 2014, about the Evangelical Baptist Church (EBC) and Yoo Byung-eun, is publishing the following corrections and an excerpt from the rebuttal statement by the EBC.


Through three past investigations by the prosecution, it has been revealed that Yoo and the EBC, also known as the “Salvation Group” and Guwonpa in Korean, are not related to the Odaeyang mass suicide incident. That was also confirmed by the prosecution in its official statement on May 21. The prosecution’s investigation also found that Yoo had not made an attempt to smuggle himself out of the country or seek political asylum in France. We, therefore, correct the concerned reports.

Yoo retired from his executive management position in 1997. He did not own any shares in the noted companies, nor had he managed operations or used the operating funds for personal reasons. There are no grounds to call him the actual owner and chairman of the company. As such, he did not provide any directives in regards to the overloading of the Sewol ferry or its renovation.

It was verified that the captain and crew members who abandoned ship at the time of the Sewol ferry accident are not members of the EBC. It has also been verified that the EBC does not own any shares of Chonghaejin Marine Company and did not engage in its management.

Rebuttal statement

The EBC’s position is that the museums in the United States and Europe can never authorize an exhibition unless the artistic value of an artist’s works is recognized by the screening committee, irrespective of the amount of money an artist donates. The EBC’s position is that the exhibitions were not a result of Mr. Yoo’s patronage or donation, and Yoo also has not coerced Chonghaejin and its affiliates to purchase his photos.

The EBC states that Yoo did not participate in the foundation of the EBC in 1981, and the church does not offer him the title “pastor.” It also says a significant part of the 240 billion won ($206 million) worth of assets suspected of belonging to the Yoo family are real estate properties owned by the farming associations, which had been established by church members.

The EBC states that there are certain churches in Korea that call the EBC a cult, solely based on differences between their’s and the EBC’s doctrines.

But the EBC does not worship a particular individual as a religious sect leader or preach any doctrine that contradicts the Bible.

박근혜 대통령이 새 국가정보원장 후보자에 이병기 주일본 대사를 지명했다. 남재준 전 원장이 경질된지 20일만이다. 이 후보자가 한민구 국방장관 내정자와 함께 국회 청문회를 통과하면 박근혜 정부의 2기 외교안보 라인의 진용이 갖춰지게 된다. 국정원장 후보자에 군 출신이 아닌 직업 외교관 출신으로 전문성을 갖춘 인사를 지명한 것은 환영할 일이다. 이 후보자는 국정원 전신인 국가안전기획부 특보와 해외 담당 2차장을 지냈으며, 2차장 재임 당시 황장엽 전 북한 노동당 비서의 한국 망명 실무 책임을 맡았다.
이 후보자에 주어진 과제는 막중하다. 국정원 내부 개혁은 발등의 불이다. 국정원은 지난 대통령 선거때의 댓글 사건, 2차 남북정상회담 회의록 공개로 정치적 논란의 한복판에 있었다. 정치적 중립이 생명인 정보기관으로서의 신뢰가 바닥으로 떨어졌다. 이 후보자는 국정원을 정권 이익이 아닌 국가 이익, 정권 안보가 아닌 국가 안보의 중추가 되도록 하는 개혁을 멈춰선 안 된다. 국민의 신뢰를 받지 못하는 정보기관은 설 땅이 없다. 이 내정자 스스로도 정보기관의 탈정치, 탈권력 없이 민주주의는 완성되지 않는다는 자세를 가져야 한다. 국정원의 역량 강화도 과제다. 국정원 직원의 서울시 공무원 간첩 증거조작 사건은 국정원의 불법, 대공 수사력 무능과 더불어 해외 정보력 부재도 드러냈다. 국정원 본연의 업무인 정보 능력을 높이기 위한 인적ㆍ제도적 쇄신이 동반돼야 한다. 능력 본위, 적재적소의 인사와 전문성을 살리는 제도 없이는 무한 정보 경쟁 시대에 대처하지 못한다. 성공은 알려지지 않고, 실패만 선전되는 세계에서 일하는 직원들의 사기도 올라갈 수가 없다. 새 국정원장 후보자 지명은 대북 정책을 재검토하는 계기도 돼야 한다. 전임 원장의 강경한 대북관이 정책의 유연성을 떨어뜨린 측면도 없지 않았다는 지적이 나오고 있다. 이 후보자는 노태우 대통령의 의전수석으로 일하면서 북방 외교에 일조한 경험도 있고, 최근의 북ㆍ일 접근도 가장 잘 알고 있다. 북한 비핵화를 위한 국제공조의 틀을 유지하면서도 남북 관계의 숨통을 트는 데 도움을 주는 역할이 필요한 시점이다.
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