Former head of the National Intelligence Service Park Jie-won will appear in court as a suspect. The NIS accused Park of deleting a special intelligence report related to the murder case related to a civil service worker in the West Sea. Park denied the accusations saying that he had not received any orders from former President Moon Jae-in or former National Security Chief Seo Hoon and did not instruct any of employees to remove anything at all. However, the prosecution believes that Park had instructed heads of Secretarial Offices to remove all data after attending the Ministerial Meeting in the early hours after the murder case occurred.
With Park’s investigation, all eight heads of the Intelligence Service, from Kim Man-bok, the last head of the NIS during President Roh Moo-hyun’s term, to Park, the last head of the NIS during President Moon’s term, had been summoned to public prosecution. Five among the eight have been arrested and jailed. Seo, Park’s predecessor, is serving time for directing Park to remove the reports. Lee Byeong-ho, Lee Byeong-ki, Nam Jae-jun of President Park Geun-hye’s administration, and Won Se-hoon of President Lee Myung-bak’s government went to trial during the arrest. Since the NIS was founded in 1999, the prosecution investigated 11 out of 14 heads, of which seven were arrested. This is nearly unheard of in other countries, which we should be ashamed of.
The head of the NIS is responsible for the organization being the subject of reform each time a new government takes office. The head of the NIS is verified for political neutrality by a confirmation hearing at the National Assembly and should remain neutral while serving office and refrain from engaging in activities that may be of issue later. However, heads of the NIS during President Lee and President Park have been investigated for reimbursing special activity expenses, while leaders of the NIS during President Roh’s term were investigated for relations with North Korea. All these suggest that previous leaders could not remain neutral against previous practices or demands of political power.
The role of the president and other political leaders is crucial in preventing deviation. Regardless of the ruling or opposition party, political parties have not been able to implement reform of the national intelligence agency and even leveraged the agency for their own personal uses. National intelligence in a divided nation is a key national asset. There should be no further cases of the NIS leader being investigated and thus disrupting the continuity of the organization.