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[Editorial] How Far Can the NIS Chief Go?

Posted April. 22, 2003 22:29,   


There is controversy over a statement Ko Young-koo, up for the post of National Intelligence Service (NIS) director, expressed at the confirmation hearing yesterday. He insisted that the provision in the existing National Security Law that says any entity on the Korean Peninsula claiming to be a government - except for the South Korean administration itself - is anti-state and should be removed.

If the controversial provision should be rescinded, North Korea would not be an anti-state organization any longer. The statement can hardly be ignored because he is a candidate for the directorship of the nation`s top intelligence agency whose major function is to keep on eye on North Korea.

The revision of the National Security Law, which currently regards the Pyongyang regime as an anti-state organization, is a matter of concern related to the foundation of this nation. Of course Mr. Ko also added the provision that North Korea should discard its first-strike policy for South Korea. The issue however is not one the NIS chief can make a decision on. Rather, when conditions are ripe, the issue should be decided according to public opinion.

Since the former Kim Dae-jung government pursued its ‘Sunshine Policy’ of engaging North Korea, we have begun to let our guard down. However, there is no sign of the North giving up its ambitions of communizing the South and its nuclear ambitions are still apparent. In this context, Mr. Ko should have reserved caution instead of expressing such a radical view. There is a possibility that Mr. Ko`s view on North Korea may confuse the general public. Moreover, the public might be misled in terms of the government’s policy toward the North.

Mr. Ko was nominated to lead in reforms for the intelligence agency. At the hearing, he said that the NIS would be reestablished as an organization that no longer gets involved in politics to gain public trust. This could be a problem if his reform drive is based on the idea of revising this provision. It could also lead to concerns that his progressive ideas could weaken the primary functions of the agency.

Mr. Ko`s job is to strengthen the NIS’ capabilities for national security. However, it is doubtful now whether what he is doing is right.