Ministerial Nominee Under Fire for CIA Ties

Kim Jeong-hoon, the Korean-American entrepreneur named as minister for science, has come under fire for his close ties to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Critics were quick to question whether he is fit to handle confidential technology information given his links to the CIA.

As head of Bell Labs, the research and development subsidiary of French-owned Alcatel-Lucent, Kim served as a non-standing director of the External Advisory Board at the CIA from 2007 to 2011. He also served as a director at In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm set up in 1999 with CIA funding.

In-Q-Tel invests in Silicon Valley technology that can be used for national security purposes.

Kim in a statement on Tuesday claimed these roles would not affect his job as Korea's science minister since they were merely "advisory" roles. But critics said his track record raises the question where his loyalties would lie in any conflict of interests between Korea and the U.S.

Kim Jeong-hoon Kim Jeong-hoon

Park Ki-choon, the floor leader of the main opposition Democratic United Party, said on Tuesday that it would be "difficult" to entrust a key government post to a man with a "questionable" identity and views on his country.

Park Jung-soo at Ewha Womans University said, "No country in the world would appoint someone to a government post who formerly served as an advisor to a foreign intelligence agency."

Some of Kim's putative future colleagues sprang to his defense. Lee Jung-hyun, who has been tapped as senior presidential secretary for government affairs, said the issue were "probably considered" when president-elect Park Geun-hye picked Kim and urged the public to trust him.

Kim in two statements on Monday and Tuesday tried to explain his background. On Monday he pledged to give up his U.S. citizenship in order to serve Korea and also resigned as chief of Bell Labs. He vowed to work solely for the national interests of Korea should he be appointed. On Tuesday he again promised to do his best for the national interests of Korea.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 20, 2013 10:28 KST