Go to contents

NIS and Ministry of Defense Set to Launch Committees to Dig Up Their Dark Past

NIS and Ministry of Defense Set to Launch Committees to Dig Up Their Dark Past

Posted August. 16, 2004 21:47,   


Shockwaves have begun to ripple throughout much of the government following a speech to mark Liberation Day on August 15 in which President Roh said, “Government agencies should first reveal the truth in the process of bringing human rights violations and wrongdoings by the past governments to light.”

“We will launch an ad hoc committee jointly with civil groups to investigate questionable incidents in the past,” said the National Intelligence Service late on August 15. “We will consider a commission to study wrongdoings in the past, which will be joined by a third-party,” said the Ministry of Defense on August 16.

As things are unfolding in this manner, government organizations will be winding up with a confession campaign for the past and will likely usher the issue of “breaking up with the past in a new stage” ahead of the formation of a special fact-finding committee in the National Assembly.

Meanwhile, the prosecution and the police are in a wait-and-see mode, saying, “There are no incidents involving us that are still issues.”

The reason why the NIS and the Ministry of Defense have decided to take the initiative is that President Roh’s address on August 15 amounts to a directive by the head of the state. Many controversial incidents and human-rights abuse incidents also involve the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, the Agency of National Security and Planning, the forerunners of the NIS, and the military.

Also, the leadership of the NIS responded quickly, following President Roh’s address, because it wanted to be on the same page with the Presidential Office as well as protect its organization from past abuses. “The incidents that are still issues today will be added to the current list of probes on the deaths of civilians under suspicious circumstances,” said a source in the NIS. “We will sort out incidents for investigations in consultation with civil groups.”

However, the NIS said the 1987 midair explosion of Korean Air 858 won’t be reinvestigated as it was not a result of any wrongdoing or abuse and as findings in previous probes were correct.

Some NIS officials muttered, “There is little reason to oppose to reopen suspicious cases. However, the practice should be stopped to shake the stature of the intelligence service when a new regime comes in or when the regime needs to distract the public.”

The campaign to break with the past will likely not result in a reshuffle of the NIS because many officials who worked for the forerunners of the service have already retired.

Jung-Hun Kim jnghn@donga.com