An unseemly rushThe ruling Democratic Party (DP) is poised to unilaterally pass a controversial revision of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) Act, which could seriously impact our national security. Given such ominous ramifications, the DP should seek a national consensus first. The DP approved an amendment to the NIS Act on its own in a subcommittee meeting Tuesday at the National Assembly despite vehement opposition from the opposition People Power Party (PPP). The proposed revision includes a ban on the spy agency’s political engagements and an ending of its anticommunist activities in three years.
The ruling party plans to submit the revision to the Legislation and Judiciary Committee immediately after going through a session of the Intelligence Committee on Friday and railroad the revised act through a full session of the National Assembly in December. The DP proposed the revision in the previous Assembly, but it could not proceed because the Legislation and Judiciary Committee was headed by an opposition lawmaker. After winning a landslide victory in the April 15 parliamentary elections, however, the DP has been pressing ahead with the revision.
There has been no public hearing on the issue. The revision raises alarms on our security front. First of all, it did not specify what government organization will take over the NIS’s counter-communist investigations. The ruling party wants to allow the police to take them over, but the PPP wants to keep them with the spy agency or another independent body. If the police gets the job, the country could become a so-called “police republic” as in the past.
Intelligence experts are expressing concerns about inefficiency when the police are left to handle both domestic and counter-communist intelligence despite the top spy agency’s relative strength in anticommunist activities. In fact, North Korea has persistently demanded South Korea scrap any such laws claiming they are a stumbling block to unification. In particular, Pyongyang called for the abolishment of Article 7 of the National Security Law, which mandates strict punishments for pro-North Korea activities, and the NIS’s rights to investigate counter-communist activities, as well as the pullout of the U.S. forces.
Our people’s security awareness has weakened since the launch of the Moon administration in 2017. Who would benefit from the revised NIS Act under such circumstances? The ruling and opposition parties must remove dangerous parts from the revision and reach an agreement before it’s too late.