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CIA chief candidate visited S. Korea during Olympics

Posted April. 05, 2018 07:56,   

Updated April. 05, 2018 07:56


It is reported that Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick for new CIA director, secretly visited South Korea as a CIA deputy director during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February.

It has been known that Andrew Kim, head of the Korea Mission Center under the CIA that deals with North Korean issues, stayed in South Korea during the Olympic Games for intelligence activities. During that time, then CIA’s second-in-command, who was being considered as the next CIA director, directly coordinated North Korean issues with the South Korean government.

According to a source Tuesday, Haspel met with South Korean high-ranking officials, including National Intelligence Service Chief Seo Hoon during her stay in South Korea to understand the intention of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who suddenly has come out for talks.

After the closing of the Olympics, South Korean special envoys visited Washington following Pyongyang and served as a messenger between North Korea and the United States. It seems that the reason why Haspel secretly visited South Korea during the Olympics was to collect intelligence and find out what is going on. Meanwhile, it appears that Andrew Kim secretly met with NIS Chief Seo in company with Haspel during the Olympics. Seo met with Haspel again when he visited Washington as a special envoy.

In fact, U.S. President Donald Trump was already aware of North Korea’s proposals through intelligence channels, such as the CIA, on March 9 when he accepted holding a North Korea-U.S. summit. Haspel’s visit to South Korea can be interpreted as part of such intelligence activities.

Haspel’s secret visit to South Korea appears to be a signal that President Trump will fully leverage CIA channel in negotiating with North Korea on denuclearization. That is why critics say the role of intelligence chiefs, such as NIS chief Seo Hoon, CIA chief and North Korean intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol, will become more important.

Kwan-Seok Jang jks@donga.com · In-Chan Hwang hic@donga.com