May 01, 2015 11:56
The National Intelligence Service found itself with egg on its face on Thursday when media reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un canceled his planned trip to Moscow for Russia's Victory Day celebrations. The NIS had confidently told lawmakers only a day earlier that Kim was going.
Asked by lawmakers whether the NIS checked hotel reservations in Moscow, NIS chief Lee Byung-ho said the North Korean Embassy is spacious enough to accommodate Kim, making hotel reservations unnecessary. He added, "Considering Kim Jong-un's capricious nature, we do not know what will happen at the last minute," but the prevailing view was that Kim would make the trip.
Any visit to another country by Kim has a direct bearing on South Korea's diplomatic strategy, so the NIS must have had some sense of urgency when it compiled the intelligence.
Of course no intelligence agency is omniscient, and it is possible that Kim canceled his plans on a whim. It is also difficult to hold Lee to account since he took the job just over a month ago.
But the blunder should be a wakeup call. The Kremlin said Kim canceled his trip plans due to "internal matters." The NIS must make every effort to find out what is going on. The public relies on the spies to remain vigilant, especially in the darker corners.
By Hwang Dae-jin from the Chosun Ilbo's News Desk
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