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Lee Sang-eop To Be Subpoenaed; Full-Blown Investigation Possible

Lee Sang-eop To Be Subpoenaed; Full-Blown Investigation Possible

Posted July. 17, 2007 03:16,   


Prosecutors are turning the focus of the investigation related to former Seoul mayor Lee Myung-bak’s personal information leak case to the information gathering practices of the National Intelligence Service (NIS). Prosecutors launched an official investigation yesterday into the NIS after it reviewed information about Lee’s brother-in-law’s property possession.

The investigation could be expanded into how the NIS collects information if the Grand National Party (GNP) sues Lee Sang-eop, the party’s reporting officer at the time.

Prosecutors will first look into how “K,” a fifth degree NIS official, through the networks of the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, reviewed the information, and whether he divulged it. Then prosecutors will find out what he was doing on the “Anti-Corruption Task Force” under the NIS, where he was gathering information from, to whom he had to report to, and how the information was used. This means those involved in heading the task force will need to be investigated, too.

The investigation could end earlier than scheduled, given that the presidential election is approaching. However an increasing number of prosecutors are saying, “It’s time that the NIS was prevented from gathering information irrelevant to its work.” The presidential office and the NIS are arguing that, “The task force team should continue to engage in its activities,” or “Corruption cases are matters that should also be dealt with from inside the realm of national security, so the NIS should be allowed to collect corruption-related information.” However, many prosecutors think these activities are unconstitutional.

Under the law, the NIS is allowed to “gather, create, and distribute information related to anti-government, subversion, anti-espionage, anti-terrorism and international crime rings at home and abroad, only,” and intelligence gathering other than for these mentioned purposes is against the NIS charter, said prosecutors.

One senior prosecutor said, “Many times, the NIS has said it will not intervene with these matters, but it always has before a presidential election is held. If the Grand National Party files a lawsuit, the investigation will be carried out according to the appropriate laws and regulations.”

Indeed, the NIS has always tried to intervene in presidential elections, which resulted in investigations by prosecutors. Prosecutors launched investigations into a number of cases, including “Suji Kim” in 1987, “North Wind” in 1997, and “illegal eavesdropping” in 2002.

The NIS, other than the “anti-corruption task force” it acknowledges, has reportedly run other “teams” to gather information related to cases such as “the restoration of the Cheonggyecheon”; the “’JU’ lobbying speculation” case; and the shipping union’s bribery case. How many teams and what these teams have done under the NIS will also be investigated.

If prosecutors launch a “full-blown” investigation, the way information is collected by the NIS will be put to the test. The possibility that the NIS’s highest managing staff be investigated cannot be ruled out. In the meantime, prosecutors are reviewing which department will carry out the investigation when the bill of indictment by the GNP against Lee is accepted.

It should be the First Special Investigation Department of the Seoul District Public Prosecutor’s Office, which is investigating the former Seoul mayor’s personal information leak case, that should do so; however, the department is busy conducting an investigation into the libel case related to Kim’s property. This makes the Second or Third Special Investigation Department the next in line to take over the NIS case.