Spy agency’s endless abuseThere appears to be no end to the abuse of power by the inner circle of President Park Geun-hye, and this time, it involves the National Intelligence Service. The agency is said to have spied on Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae at the order of the Blue House and been involved in creating a “blacklist” of figures critical of the government.
The independent counsel team led by Park Young-soo has obtained evidence that the top spy agency played a role behind the merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries, of which the state-run National Pension Service was the largest outside stakeholder. Espionage activities are part of the National Intelligence Service’s public role. It sends agents to various institutions to collect information. But the activities could turn into illegal surveillance if the purpose is political and intentional.
It would be a grave matter if the intelligence service did get involved in procedures leading up to the pension fund’s approval of the Samsung merger. The spy agency collected information on members of the board and details of informal meetings on the National Pension Service’s position on the merger plan in July 2015, and reported them to An Chong-bum, then the president’s senior secretary for policy coordination. We demand an explanation for why a state intelligence agency took interest in a non-public corporate merger plan and a public institution’s management decisions, and why it was all reported to a presidential aide.
The National Intelligence Service is also said to have been deeply involved in creating a list of 10,000 figures in the arts and entertainment world deemed critical of the government and requiring censorship. The independent counsel investigated Lee Byung-kee, former chief of staff and head of the National Intelligence Service, under this suspicion. The agency’s illegal stretch was also exposed during a parliamentary hearing that revealed the Blue House’s surveillance of Yang and other judges.
The irregularities suggest the National Intelligence Service used its public power and resources to gather intel and work as a secret spy agency for the presidential office. The agency has not changed a bit even after an earlier scandal suggested it helped elect President Park Geun-hye. We seriously have to consider what must be done with the intelligence office.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 5, Page 30