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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on July 14)

2017/07/14 07:07

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Spy agency's neutrality

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) has aroused controversy by announcing that it will conduct internal investigations into 13 dubious cases in which its agents were involved.

Suh Hoon, the spy agency's new director, made the revelation during a briefing made at the National Assembly Intelligence Committee, Tuesday. The incidents to be scrutinized include the agency's online operation to smear then opposition candidate Moon Jae-in in the 2012 presidential election and its decision in 2013 to make public a transcript of the 2007 inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang. Without exception, all 13 cases were politically sensitive matters.

Admittedly, there might be a need to shed new light on them. The intelligence agency might have to undergo such a process to liquidate its shameful past and reinvent itself. It will be encouraging if the NIS can remove its evil practice of intervening in domestic politics through the upcoming investigations.

But one cannot help worry about the enormous political ripples that will erupt in that process.

More than anything, whether the spy agency can carry out fair and objective investigation is in doubt. The NIS established an internal reform committee comprised of two task forces, and one of the two teams will be in charge of the investigations. But the committee consists largely of liberal figures close to President Moon.

It also defies understanding that the agency included some cases in which final rulings have already been handed down. This raises suspicions that the new Moon administration may be trying to sort out those who were loyal to the last two conservative governments.

Furthermore, all 13 cases occurred during the tenures of the conservative governments, prompting angry reactions of why suspicious incidents that occurred during the liberal governments are not reexamined. Is the agency volunteering to get involved in politics even after vowing to break with politics? Little wonder then that the opposition parties are protesting, calling the move "political revenge."

   The Moon administration won't be free from criticism of having used the intelligence agency politically should the upcoming scrutiny result in smearing its predecessors. The NIS should do its utmost to keep its political neutrality rather than waste time and energy on delving into past incidents.