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[Opinion] Spy Agency’s Blatant Disrespect for the Law

Posted October. 17, 2007 03:20,   


Arriving at the Korea Central Intelligence (now succeeded by the National Intelligence Service) headquarters at Mt. Namsan, I was dragged into a dungeon. I changed into a blue military uniform and had to endure humiliating and brutal treatments for some time thereafter. In a dimly lit room, they beat me to a pulp. … A senior KCIA agent showed up and started cursing and threatening me, saying, “I could drown you deep into the sea. Or I could bury you alive.” … I could hear my fellow reporter screaming out of pain in the next room.

These are the quotes from a book written by a former Dong-A Ilbo editor-in-chief who worked for Dong-A during the mid 1980s. His story vividly testifies to how brutal and devastating an intelligence agency can become, should it abuse its power. The tactics were full of tortures and crimes against humanity. Still, the victims had to promise in written statements that they would not tell the world about it. Nonetheless, no one was held liable. No one can argue administrative or any other form of immunity to these heinous crimes.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) has recently refused to allow its officials to take the stand in an appeal involving the Kim Dae-jung administration’s illegal wiretapping. South Koreans are condemning the decision. Actually, during the trial, the agency allowed its employees to testify before the court. Numerous people point to new NIS head Kim Man-bok as the cause of the change. Kim Man-bok differs from his predecessor and former prosecutor Kim Seung-gyu. A senior NIS official took the stand during the trial and his testimony led to imprisonment of two key Kim Dae-jung administration figures: former NIS heads Lim Dong-won and Shin Geon.

Now, Kim Man-bok even refuses to allow his men to testify in an environment protected from the public and the media watch. The agency cites various risks its agents may face from the disclosure. But the confidentiality privilege of the NIS does not supersede the constitution, which penalizes unauthorized wiretapping. The cited “risks” are not persuasive either. Kim Man-bok gladly exposed himself to the media crew during the Afghanistan hostage negotiation and the 2007 inter-Korean summit. Roh himself has disparaged and disrespected the law. No wonder his loyal men try to copy their boss!

Editorial Writer Yuk Jeong-su, sooya@donga.com