Lessons from the NPAD’s past

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Lessons from the NPAD’s past

Checking on state agencies is one of the major functions of the opposition party. While the media and the prosecutors also keep the powerful in check, the opposition party has a special influence. When it comes forward, faults become full-blown issues, inspiring the media to report and the prosecutors to investigate. The opposition party also has the investigative tool of the National Assembly. When it comes to checking on the administration, the opposition party has especially effective power.

With more power, the opposition should take on more obligations. First, it should only attack based on confirmed facts, using reasonable verification. Second, it should be free of fault to criticize others. If it has a less-than-honorable history, it needs to be reserved and prudent. Third, the opposition party should prove that it is a part of the national community and is jointly confronting an assailant against the state.

When the National Intelligence Service (NIS) hacking program controversy made news on July 15, New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) Chairman Moon Jae-in said, “The NIS can use the program and access everything on mobile phones, including conversations, photos and text messages, if it wants to. The NIS is watching us. This is scary.”

There is no confirmed case of the NIS hacking civilians. But Moon raised allegations of criminal activities and inspections and didn’t seem to care about the honor and trust of the NIS falling. Are the opposition’s accusations unrelated to the suicide of an NIS agent?

Some argue that the NIS deserves this treatment, but they’re not seeing the importance of the affair. The NIS is under judicial scrutiny over online postings during the Lee Myung-bak administration. But orchestrated postings and hacking are very different issues. The anti-North Korea psychological warfare unit responsible for writing online posts was created during the Roh Moo-hyun administration. The unit expanded their scope of activities and wrote posts that allegedly amounted to “political intervention” during the presidential campaign. But accusing the NIS of being criminal hackers is like accusing a robber of murder and burglary. Can the state security agency be treated so rashly?

Korean society has systematic means to investigate the top spy agency. The National Assembly’s intelligence committee can do the job. The opposition party can discover nearly all relevant facts through questioning and inquiries. Once the committee investigation reveals wrongdoings, prosecutors or independent counsel can take over. Even with this process, it is an excessive political offense to call the NIS chief to the National Assembly or to call for a special prosecutor.

The Kim Dae-jung administration was the most notable democratic administration since 1987. But civilians were wiretapped during his administration. The NIS developed R-2 and CAS, phone-tapping devices for wired and mobile phones. Prosecutors found that more than 1,000 people were wiretapped during the Kim administration, and as a result, two NIS chiefs, Lim Dong-won and Shin Kuhn, were imprisoned. Still, President Kim is revered as the anchor of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

The NPAD may say that they cannot give up the function of an opposition party just because a past administration committed crimes. They are right. But the way of raising the issue should be more prudent and responsible. When a father with a history of robbery questions his son about a burglary charge, he should not act as if he was clear of any faults. One of the leaders of the NPAD harshest on the NIS is Jeon Byeong-heon, who has served as the director of the Blue House Situation Room. Can he say he was unrelated to the NIS wiretapping?

As the NPAD attacks the NIS, they argue that they want to protect the citizens from hacking. But North Korea has been most intensely hacking South Koreans. Since the Yeonpyeong Island bombing in 2010, North Korea can no longer commit conventional provocations and committed several cyberattacks on the South afterwards. State agencies, media and financial institutions have suffered tremendous damages.

Media and financial institutions are the most notable civilian organizations, and attacks on them are terrorism against the citizens. Has the NPAD condemned North Korea and called for retaliation? It remains silent on the assailant with confirmed crimes yet accuses the NIS when its charges are yet to be verified. Which country does the NPAD belong to?

The NIS might yet be confirmed to have hacked civilians. Yet that would not allow the NPAD to address the case so harshly. The suicide of an NIS agent also should not be lightly handled. The Sewol ferry tragedy, the MERS outbreak and the hacking case should not be used excessively politically.

This is a lesson from the series of election defeats the NPAD has suffered, and it should not forget it.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 22, Page 31

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin

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