Ruling Party, Cheong Wa Dae Furious at NIS Chief

    October 31, 2006 08:47

    Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling party are up in arms after the Chosun Ilbo published remarks by the outgoing National Intelligence Service chief Kim Seong-kew on Monday hinting at political pressure to drop the investigation into a spying scandal. Kim said "Everyone [in the NIS] will work hard to investigate the North Korean spy ring case, even if it costs them their job." Since the scandal concerns key figures in the so-called 386 generation of former student activists now close to the centers of power, Kim said the next NIS chief should not be someone “who does what politicians want him to do.”

    A delegation of the Democratic Labor Party leaves Incheon International Airport for North Korea on Monday afternoon.

    Uri Party lawmakers who object to the investigation say the case tarnishes the entire generation of ex-student activists and say the probe is politically motivated. At Monday’s audit of the Justice Department, they laid into the NIS. Uri lawmaker Kim Dong-cheol raised suspicion that the NIS is intentionally leaking information about the case to the press. Rep. Lee Jong-kul alleged the investigation was planned for ulterior motives. "The suspects say that the case is a setup by the NIS, and a thorough investigation should determine whether that is true.” Im Jong-in, another Uri lawmaker, protested against Kim's definition of the investigation as a “North Korean spy ring case,” “It’s inappropriate to define the case that way when the suspects just met a few North Koreans,” Im said.

    Sources say Cheong Wa Dae was enraged by the interview. Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Yoon Tae-young said there was no need to respond to every comment the NIS chief made, but in private presidential officials were extremely upset. Kim's remark that some of the candidates to succeed him are unsuitable “due to concerns that they tend to do what [politicians] want them to do" agitated them particularly, according to sources. They said the remark tampers with the president’s prerogative to choose the next NIS chief, according to sources. Others lashed out saying Kim has had problems judging the situation in the North Korean nuclear crisis and pointing out that Kim does not see eye to eye with the foreign and defense ministers.

    The NIS said Kim denied during an internal meeting there had been pressure from 386-generation politicians over the investigation. "We expected that our investigation would be hampered if it was seen as revealing conflict between the NIS and politicians who worked as student activist,” an NIS official said. “We face a very worrisome situation." But some NIS officials say many in the agency were heartened by Kim’s determination to arrest the suspects and are on board. They reportedly want to respond to the attack from the ruling party but are holding back. Officials close to Kim said it seemed some senior NIS officials who had indeed been “doing what politicians want them to do” tried to sabotage Kim's work as NIS chief.

    A lawmaker on the National Assembly Intelligence Committee said the investigation should not be interrupted. Kim's statement on Monday that there has been no pressure from 386er politicians may not be enough to dispel suspicions about his resignation.

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