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Politics/Diplomacy
2008/05/03 14:29 KST
Intelligence service must remain faithful to set role: President Lee

   SEOUL, May 3 (Yonhap) -- President Lee Myung-bak on Saturday called on the National Intelligence Service (NIS) to remain faithful to its role of serving the country's interests.

   The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said Lee pointed out that the country's intelligence service had "deviated" frequently from its intended role and needed to reflect on such transgressions.

   Lee was in southern Seoul to be briefed on the policy directives of the spy agency.

   The official then said Lee highlighted the new administration's determination to overcome all obstacles to transforming South Korea into a world class country, and added the intelligence agency must do its part to help meet such objectives.

   "He made clear that there can be no progress if the service blindly follows past practices and urged the NIS to make noticeable progress in strengthening national security," a spokesperson said.

   The president's request that national security be enhanced comes as the NIS director Kim Sung-ho said efforts are to be made to reinforce the agency's counter-intelligence activities.

   Conservatives in the new government have complained that the last 10 years of rule by liberal leaders have drastically weakened the NIS's ability or inclination to catch spies or deal effectively with security threats. There have been accusations that investigations related to possible espionage cases have been toned down so as not to upset the atmosphere of detente between South and North Korea.

   "In the future redoubled measures are to be taken so the NIS can carry out its duties to ferret out spies and deal with national threats," Kim said.

   Meanwhile. the Ministry of Unification said it planned to introduce public educational programs aimed at laying bear the need for "balanced" views on national security and a better understanding of North Korea.

   The announcement by Kim and the plans being pursued by the Unification Ministry are a clear sign that Seoul is moving away from past practices and setting new guidelines towards North Korea.

   There has been a move in the past 10 years under the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations to downplay the security risks posed by North Korea.

   yonngong@yna.co.kr
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