The making of a monster?The plan to reform the country’s criminal investigation system announced by Cho Kuk, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, underscores the liberal administration’s deep-seated distrust of the National Intelligence Service and state prosecution.
The two agencies were stripped of their exclusive investigative authorities because they have repeatedly abused their power to meddle in domestic politics and surrendered themselves to serve the interests of the ruling powers, not the people.
Their authorities inevitably should be reduced in order to root out their collusive associations with the powers that be. But giving those powers to the police could give birth to another mighty institution capable of being politically manipulated. Moreover, it raises questions of whether the police have the kind of resources and capacity to meet their new and powerful role.
Stripping anti-espionage investigative authority from the NIS could seriously undermine the country’s anti-espionage capacity when terrorism and North Korean asymmetric tactics are advancing at a rapid pace.
The police can hardly match the spy agency’s information network, expertise and resources. The police have been involved in anti-espionage operations, but mostly associated with less formidable assignments such as tracking pro-North Korean publications.
The reforms should be focused on cutting the connections between the administration or party in power and the spy agency to make sure it devotes itself fully to its legitimate functions. Reforms should not cripple the institution.
Shifting preliminary criminal investigations to the police and leaving special fields such as business and financial crimes with the state prosecution also raises concerns. The administration envisions making regional police departments independent and separating the police into general police and investigating officers.
Still the police would become very powerful with anti-espionage and criminal investigative powers. The police, which have been tactless in collecting information, could become a monster of the Moon administration’s making.
The plans will be reviewed by the National Assembly. Legislators must study repercussions and side effects. The legislature must not use the bill for political interests, but should concentrate on coming up with best possible alternatives to reform and upgrade the country’s criminal justice system.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 15, Page 30