Saenuri weighs action against former spy chief

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Saenuri weighs action against former spy chief

The ruling party said Monday that it will look into suspicions that Kim Man-bok, the former intelligence chief under the Roh Moo-hyun administration, once campaigned for the main opposition party in an election even after becoming a member of the Saenuri.

“Kim, the former director of the National Intelligence Service, secretly joined our party on Aug. 27 via fax,” said Hwang Jin-ha, the secretary-general of the Saenuri Party.

“We have received tips from the Busan chapter one after the other that he committed intolerable acts as a Saenuri member, including supporting a candidate from the New Politics Alliance for Democracy during the [October] by-elections.”

According to Hwang, the party will hold an ethics committee meeting today to investigate the allegations.

Hwang already stated last week that Kim may face expulsion if the charges are substantiated.

Earlier in the day, a group of first- and second-term Saenuri Party lawmakers demanded the party punish Kim and strengthen its membership standards.

“The party welcomed Kim, using it as an example to demonstrate that the party has a future for its openness,” said Rep. Ha Tae-keung, a first-term lawmaker representing Busan’s Gijang B District. “But just a day later, it retracted the welcome.

“This shows that the party has loopholes.”

“The party’s current constitution and regulations allow someone like Kim, who has a history of leaking national secrets, to join the party,” Ha said. “We must use this incident to reinforce our standards.”

From November 2006 to February 2008, Kim headed the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and accompanied President Roh to North Korea in October 2007 for the inter-Korean summit.

However, he stepped down in disgrace in January 2008 after leaking details to the media about a confidential trip he took to North Korea on Dec. 18, 2007 - just one day before the presidential election - to informed Pyongyang about race predictions.

Together with two former key Roh aides, Kim published a book last month on the 2007 inter-Korean summit between Roh and Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader at the time.

In the memoir, the officials provided details about the meeting as well as other secret exchanges between both countries.

The NIS subsequently submitted a petition to the prosecution to investigate Kim for leaking national secrets obtained in the line of duty.

Ha reacted particularly sensitively, as Kim had made clear his plans to run in next year’s legislative election in his hometown of Gijang. Ha has also formally requested that the party’s Supreme Council expel Kim.

After the ethics committee makes a decision and it is approved by the Supreme Council, Kim will have 10 days to refute it.

As the hostilities rose Monday, Kim issued a press release to explain his position and his political ambitions.

“As a native of Gijang, it was suggested by the people in my hometown that I run in the general election, and I explored that possibility,” Kim said, adding that his supporters recommended he join the Saenuri Party to better his chances of winning at the polls.

The former NIS director insisted he had no idea that the Saenuri Party had accepted his application, submitted via fax, because he had not been contacted since then.

He only found out, he continued, through newspaper reports Thursday.

Kim added that he would explore the possibility that he may have to run as an independent depending on the Saenuri Party’s nomination system and that he would decide whether to seek a Saenuri ticket later.

To win as an independent, it is crucial that the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) not field a candidate, he said.

Kim went on to say that he had visited the office of an NPAD candidate before the Oct. 28 by-elections for the city council race not because he had accepted the party’s invitation but because of his personal ties with the candidate.

BY SER MYO-JA
[ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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