Former spy chief must stop leaking secrets

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Former spy chief must stop leaking secrets

Former National Intelligence Service (NIS) Director Park Jie-won has raised a few eyebrows for his behavior. He had to apologize to his former workplace after claiming that X-files on President Yoon Suk-yeol and influential politicians, business tycoons and journalists exist in the top spy agency’s main server. On a radio talk show, Park claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be “removed” as if he leaked confidential information he had learned as head of the NIS.

Park has broken the fundamental code as a state intelligence chief. Under the NIS Act, any intelligence officer betraying confidential intelligence while in or out of office could face a maximum 10 years in prison or fine of 10 million won ($7,770). Even without the law, any spy agent would know the importance of keeping information secret. It is shocking that an NIS director would talk so freely and break the confidential code any spy agent will defend for life. Some suspect that Park was making sensational comments to return to the Democratic Party.

The NIS must take action against the former spy chief rather than simply protesting his act. Another former director of the spy agency had to stop contributing to a foreign media outlet and apologize after leaking confidential information.

The NIS has promised reform under every administration. But it has been suspected of continuing with civilian surveillance. A former NIS chief was sent to prison for illegal spying on civilians.

Park was appointed to head the organization to make it fair and transparent. He was deemed an ideal director, as he was the closest aide to former president Kim Dae-jung who had been victimized by political maneuvering through the spy agency. Park should have ordered elimination of civilian files or at least kept them sealed to prevent abuse. Yet he has leaked the information to provoke controversy about the existence of such secret files just a month after he left the office.

Given his claim, the NIS is suspected of keeping tabs on influential figures for years or decades and of enabling top agents like Park to have access to the secretive files. Few now would trust the insistence by the NIS that it no longer spies on civilians. President Yoon Suk-yeol has vowed not to meet the NIS director and military intelligence officers privately. But that cannot be enough. Any files left in the NIS must be scrapped permanently. By whom, when, and why these files were made also should be investigated and explained thoroughly.
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