The National Intelligence Service confirmed the existence of documents investigating over 1,000 figures in different fields, including National Assembly members, under the Lee Myung-bak administration at a Tuesday meeting of the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee. The Director of NIS Park Jie-won said that the documents contain illegal information beyond the scope of duties and that a closed report on the documents will be considered if the Intelligence Committee passes a resolution. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea proposed a special resolution for the disclosure of the documents while the main opposition People Power Party argued for the enactment of a special law to examine the overall illegal investigations by the NIS since its foundation.
If it is indeed true that the NIS conducted illegal investigations of key figures, it cannot be overlooked. Such misconduct and the evasion of the law, although in the past, cannot be disregarded. However, there are many questionable aspects as to why the ruling party is heavily focusing on the issue at the moment.
The NIS’ suspected illegal investigations are a long dark history of the intelligence agency. Even though the NIS’ domestic data collection was banned under the current administration, it was customary in the past that the agency collected information on politicians and other key figures. Immediately following its launch, the Moon Jae-in administration thoroughly dug up the overall activities of the NIS under the previous administrations in the name of cleaning up of deep-rooted evils. The NIS’ reform and development committee investigated the main server where the list of NIS’ sensitive activities is stored and made former NIS directors under the previous administrations take legal responsibility. These show that the recent issue could have been raised a long time ago, which makes the intention of its timing suspicious.
The NIS said the documents contain all legal and illegal state secrets, as well as personal information during a briefing for the Intelligence Committee, which means that sorting the documents based on their legality would be difficult. Therefore, the issue is likely to lead to political arguments between the ruling and the opposition parties, rather than finding truths about the past investigations, which is already the case.
The members of the ruling party began all together to further raise the issue via media interviews, etc. “It is logical to assume that illegal investigations took place under the Park Geun-hye administration,” said Kim Byung-kee, the Democratic Party of Korea’s assistant administrator of the Intelligence Committee, on TBS Radio. Kim Min-seok and Kang Hoon-sik of the same party made similar claimed on YTN Radio and raised suspicions about the investigations’ relation to the then-Cheong Wa Dae on CBE Radio, respectively.
This is why suspicions are growing that the ruling party is taking such actions in consideration of the by-elections for the mayors of Seoul and Busan on April 7, which is less than 50 days away. In particular, the People Power Party’s candidate for the mayor of Busan Park Hyung-jun was the head of the State Affairs Committee under the Lee Myung-bak administration. Despite their claims for innocent intention, the questionable timing of the ruling party’s actions will not be able to avoid controversy about its intervention in the upcoming by-elections. For the ruling and opposition parties to truly clean up the past of the NIS, the recent issue of illegal investigations should be postponed after the by-elections. It won’t be late then.