Opposition accuses NIS of misleading local press

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Opposition accuses NIS of misleading local press

An opposition party lawmaker who leads the parliamentary Intelligence Committee accused the National Intelligence Service (NIS) on Wednesday of leaking to the local press information that implies Seoul is making progress on the North Korea denuclearization issue in order to divert blame away from President Moon Jae-in’s “regretful” summit with the United States.

Rep. Lee Hye-hoon of the minor-right Bareunmirae Party told an MBC radio show that the national spy agency’s plot has made it appear Moon made “a humongous achievement” in his latest meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in New York, though in reality, Lee said, he barely made any step forward on the denuclearization issue.

Lawmakers of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) echoed Lee’s cynical sentiment, saying the NIS colluded with the government to cover up the scandal revolving around Justice Minister Cho Kuk.

Lee took issue with the NIS’s latest briefing to lawmakers on the Intelligence Committee, held Tuesday at the National Assembly in Yeouido, western Seoul. After the closed-door briefing, as is customary, a select group of lawmakers from the committee relayed snippets of the briefing to reporters, reading off papers from the NIS, which contained information from the parliamentary briefing session that was allowed to be revealed to the media.

But Lee claims that the NIS slipped several details into those papers that weren’t actually mentioned in the briefing it gave to lawmakers. That gap, Lee said Wednesday, apparently indicates the NIS tried to pass on information to the public that it thought would help the Moon government gain political points.

One such piece of information was that working-level talks between Pyongyang and Washington could begin within the next two to three weeks. Another was that a third summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could take place by the end of this year.

Lee said NIS Director Suh Hoon did not mention those two assessments in the briefing he gave to members on the Intelligence Committee Tuesday, though somehow, they landed in the papers that the lawmakers were allowed to read out to the press after the session.

“The timing was brilliant,” said Lee. Another source related to the Intelligence Committee said it was “rare” for the media readouts to be “so different” from the actual parliamentary briefing, adding that committee members normally don’t have enough time to scan through the papers because they are handed to them “right before” the lawmakers stand in front of reporters.

Rep. Na Kyung-won, floor leader of the LKP, denounced the NIS on Wednesday for telling the press that North Korean leader Kim could visit Busan later this year to join a summit between Moon and the leaders of Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Na said it was “common sense” to keep Kim’s possible visit to South Korea low key due to security issues, and that leaking this to media regardless of the sensitivity of the matter only goes to show that the government was trying to steer attention away from Justice Minister Cho’s scandal.

BY SUNG JI-WON [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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