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NIS faces growing speculation amidst personnel appointment reversal

NIS faces growing speculation amidst personnel appointment reversal

Posted June. 17, 2023 08:02,   

Updated June. 17, 2023 08:02


The first-grade personnel changes in the National Intelligence Service (NIS), which President Yoon Suk Yeol reversed just five days after his return earlier this month, involved the appointment of a senior official with a background in domestic politics who had worked closely with NIS Director Kim Gyu-hyun’s aide A, to the position of Minister Counselor in the political section of the U.S. and Japanese embassies. Additionally, it has been reported that a third-grade official, who shared a professional connection with A (a second-grade official), was promoted to director-level official (first-grade) in the department responsible for North Korea-related affairs. It is reported that President Yoon verified the concerns regarding A's excessive involvement in personnel matters and directly withdrew the personnel affairs.

Some argue that A recommended individuals with whom he had personal connections and that these individuals were themselves controversial figures. Among them, it is alleged that there was the person responsible for drafting the NIS version of former President Moon Jae-in's speech at the Neungrado Stadium during his visit to Pyongyang. Additionally, there were allegations of another individual who allegedly bypassed the NIS director at the time and directly reported to Woo Byung-woo, the Cheong Wa Dae Senior Secretary for Civil Affairs, during the Park Geun-hye administration.

Upon assuming office, President Yoon took immediate action by instructing all first-level executives appointed during the Moon government to suspend their duties, leading to replacements not only in the first grade but also in the second and third grades. Nevertheless, the occurrence of a “reversal after the presidential transition” is highly unusual. This development highlights the intricate internal dynamics within the NIS, suggesting that even after the removal of executives hired by the previous administration, the agency remains influenced by hardliners who believe that the executive team from the previous administration has not been replaced thoroughly.

Within the NIS, the president has appointed some former prosecutors to gain insight into the agency's internal affairs. At the start of the administration, former Deputy Prosecutor Cho Sang-joon was appointed as the head of the Planning and Management Office. However, for unclear reasons, he bypassed the position of NIS Director and submitted his resignation letter directly to the President. It has been analyzed that the successive appointments of former prosecutors in leadership positions have cultivated a personal network that allows them to access internal information from the NIS. This factor further contributes to the confusion surrounding NIS personnel.

As indicated on the sign in the presidential office, the ultimate responsibility for state affairs lies with the president. Similarly, the heads of each department bear the responsibility for their respective departments. If an inappropriate personnel proposal is presented to the president, the person accountable is not A, but rather the head of the NIS. If there are concerns regarding personnel matters, it would be more appropriate to hold the NIS chief accountable first and then, if necessary, proceed with any necessary reversals. The current reversal of the order has led to a growing accumulation of speculations, such as “expelling Kim,” which only adds to public confusion regarding the situation unfolding within the NIS.