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[Editorial] Enhancing the Capability of the National Intelligence Service Should Not Be Delayed

[Editorial] Enhancing the Capability of the National Intelligence Service Should Not Be Delayed

Posted January. 20, 2005 22:46,   


The National Intelligence Service (NIS) notified President Roh Moo-hyun of its “innovation plans” yesterday. The plans are mainly about a review of the mission and function of the agency through overall re-modeling work, and about re-designing organization, employment, and training systems. Also notable is the idea of appointing a private expert as the National Intelligence Officer (NIO), a newly created post, to assign mid-and long-term strategy information and prospects for situations.

The reform plan of the NIS is the second such effort under the incumbent government. The plan is concentrated on enhancing the capability of the intelligence organization in contrast to the first reorganization that was implemented two years ago. That reorganization focused on the separation of the agency from politics and political power.

Although there were unusual signs in North Korea last year after the explosion at Yongchon station, the NIS failed to present any reasonable analysis. That might be because the agency’s intelligence ability concerning the North is weak, or because it produces intelligence based on the preferences of the government. The fact that there are a handful of North Korean spies that have been arrested in the recent years also demonstrates that the anti-spy capability of the NIS is not perfect. The task of rebuilding the NIS, whose function and role has been seriously diminished, is something that should not be delayed. In this regard, the overall direction of the reform plan is desirable.

However, reform is of no use if the NIS fails to transform itself into an intelligence agency true to its original purpose. Previous governments had tried to reform the agency, which led to a compromised intelligence capability. Considerable numbers of veteran intelligence experts left the agency and that demoralized the staff. It is true that the government often compromised the “nature” of the intelligence functions of the NIS by being preoccupied with overcoming the “dark past” of the agency. Therefore, the leadership of the NIS should make an extraordinary effort to successfully carry out this reform plan.

In the same vein, the task of finding the truth of past cases involving the NIS, in which the private sector plays a central role, should be performed as carefully as possible. The past should not pressure the future.