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Government Lied about Illegal Bugging

Posted August. 06, 2005 06:18,   


On the watch of former president Kim Dae-jung, the president himself as well as key administration figures, including the director of the NIS, said with one voice that there was no illegal bugging. But the latest investigation into the scandal involving the NIS disclosed that what they said with one voice was all lies.

Members of opposition parties had argued since the early days of the Kim Dae-jung administration that they suspected that they were being wiretapped, citing cases in point. But the former President Kim underscored repeatedly that the government has never wiretapped anyone illegally and that it would never do so in the future. He said in testimony to the Ministry of Justice in March 1999, “I would like to take this opportunity to declare solemnly that my administration doesn’t wiretap, torture anyone or track accounts illegally to remain in power.”

Lee Boo-young, an advisor to the ruling Uri party who was a Grand National Party lawmaker in October 1999 asserted in the Parliament Information Committee’s inspection of the NIS, “Considerable number of employees of NIS Bureau Eight (the science security bureau) illegally eavesdropped on domestic and international calls 24-7 in four different teams.”

But Chun Yong-taek, then director of the NIS, countered, “I can give you my word as the director of the NIS that we were never involved in illegal bugging.”

Controversy over the illegal wiretapping was raised again during the period between September and November in 2002 when the presidential election was in full-swing. Grand National Party Representative, Chung Hyung-geun, made public in the Parliament National Policy Committee that the government wiretapped political, governmental and business figures illegally and discriminately. His remarks triggered intense political wrangling between the ruling and opposition parties.

Rep. Chung said that the NIS used ‘a car-mounted device designed to wiretap on cellular phones’. Shin Geon, then director of the NIS dismissed his allegation, saying that there was no illegal wiretapping.

But the latest investigation revealed that the car-mounted device existed. According to the NIS, the 45kg device allowed the spy agency to wiretap mobile phone users within a radius of 200m, in the car where the device was installed.”

Suspicions over the Kim Dae-jung administration’s illegal wiretapping were raised once again amid the brewing scandal over the X-file of the NSPA, the predecessor of the NIS, which was denied consistently by then-prominent figures.

Moon Hee-sang, chairman of the Uri party who served as a former chief presidential secretary and a head of the NIS planning and coordination team in the early days of the administration, said in an open meeting that “Illegal wiretapping came to an end with the inauguration of the People’s Government (Kim Dae-jung administration). Behind the X-file scandal surrounding the NIS is the Grand National Party.”

In-Jik Cho cij1999@donga.com