The alleged involvement of the South Korean spy agency in a fumbled industrial espionage job is the dominating debate in the diplomatic community here.
At the center of the controversy is the bidding for a contract to supply trainer jets, tanks and missiles to Indonesia. South Korea’s T-50 supersonic planes are competing with Russia’s Y-130 trainer jets for the deal.
Some high-ranking diplomats expressed concerns for future dealings with South Korea, hinting that the trust essential for sensitive negotiations could be jeopardized.
“What’s dangerous and embarrassing over this matter is that this was a visiting presidential delegation,” said an African envoy. “This means they were representing their country’s president over the deal.”
Another envoy said he was not surprised, because military and industrial espionage happens all over the world; the exception is that agents are not usually apprehended in the middle of a robbery.
Last Wednesday three people allegedly from the NIS broke into a room in the Lotte Hotel used by an aide to the leader of a visiting Indonesian delegation.
Reports from police and local media say that two men and one woman used a USB flash drive to copy files from one of two laptop computers in the room while the delegation met President Lee Myung-bak to discuss defense contracts.
The aide returned while the intruders were still there. Surprised, they fled with one laptop only to return the stolen property a few minutes later.
“We are going to have to reexamine our entire security detail for future visits by even our smallest of delegations,” said one Asian envoy. “It’s a cost that was not foreseen until now.”
Because of sensitive matters surrounding the incident, diplomats wished to comment on this story anonymously.
Another diplomat pointed to the lack of security at the hotel. A group of NIS officials confiscated footage from the hotel’s security cameras last Thursday.
“No military data was stolen in Seoul,” Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, who was part of the trip, said after returning home.
Officials on both sides are attempting to defuse the story. The Indonesian minister who led the delegation, Hatta Rajasa, said that it was the case of someone trying to enter the wrong room.
“It’s normal that both sides would try to defuse the situation, it shows that both sides are still interested in the deal and are both trying to help each other avoid embarrassment,” said another Asian diplomat. Besides the sale of the training jets there are other bilateral pacts at stake.
Military insiders believe that the deal would have been signed if it were not for the botched attempt.
The NIS director has come under pressure to step down following the reports.
No comment has come from the Indonesia Embassy here except to say that they asked the Korean side to look into the case.
Korean officials plan to inform Indonesia of the findings of their investigation.
NIS officials are working through various channels to resolve the matter suggesting that they may have lobbied Indonesia to hush-up the break-in.
Lee has been pushing the sale of T-50 jets to several nations unsuccessfully since taking office ― namely the United Arab Emeritus, Poland and Singapore before setting his sight on Indonesia.
In December, Lee and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono laid the foundation for a military industry cooperation which led to last week’s visit by high-ranking Indonesian officials.
While commenting about the level of agents working for the NIS, one Western diplomat pointed out that it is not the first time a Korean agent was caught with his hands in the cookie jar, referring to last year’s incident in Libya, in which an NIS agent was caught by Libyan authorities while gathering intelligence.
By Yoav Cerralbo (firstname.lastname@example.org)
주한 외교관들 국정원 개입 의혹 스파이 사건 주시
국정원 직원 3명이 인도네시아 대통령 사절단이 머물던 호텔에 침입한것으로 알려진 사건이 주한 외교관 사회에서 큰 화제거리가 되고 있다.
지난 주 우리나라가 인도네시아로 국산 초음속 고등훈련기인 T-50를 수출하기 위해 러시아 제품과 경합을 벌이던 중, 국정원이 가격 협상 정보를 얻기 위해 대통령 사절단이 머물던 호텔 방에 침입해 USB로 관련 정보를 빼내려다 발각되었다는 뉴스가 터져 나왔다.
이번 사건이 민감한 사안인 만큼, 인터뷰에 응한 외교관들은 익명으로 보도할 것을 요청했다.
한 아프리카 특사는 “이 사태가 위험하고 부끄러운 이유는 바로 대통령 사절단에 대해 가해진 일이라는 것”이라며 “그들은 모국의 대통령을 대표하여 방문한 사람들”이라고 밝혔다.
또 다른 외교관은 군사 및 산업 스파이 행위는 이미 전 세계적으로 만연하기 때문에 놀랄 일은 아니지만, 활동 도중에 발각되는 것은 이례적인 일이라고 말했다.
Purnomo Yusgiantoro 인도네시아 국방부 장관은 귀국 후 “유출된 군사 자료는 없다”고 밝혔다.
현재 양국의 정부 관계자는 사건을 수습하기 위해 노력 중이다. Hatta Rajasa 특사 대표는 이번 사건이 단지 투숙객이 방을 오인해 들어온 사건일 뿐이라고 했다.
또 다른 아시아 국가 외교관은 “양국이 사건을 수습하기 위해 노력하는 것은 당연한 것이다. 이는 아직 거래 협상이 유효하다는 것이고, 서로 얼굴 붉히는 일이 없도록 피하기 위해 돕는 것이다.” 라고 말했다.
아직 인도네시아 대사관은 이에 관련한 입장 표명을 하지 않았으며, 한국 측이 조사를 해 주길 바란다고 만 요청했다. 한국 정부는 이에 곧 수사 결과를 전달할 방침이다.
이명박 대통령은 집권 이후 T-50제트를 판매하기 위해 UAE 폴란드, 싱가폴 등 여러 국가를 모색하였지만 실패하였다.
지난 12월, 李대통령은 인도네시아 대통령인 Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono 과 군수 산업 협력에 대해 논의를 하였으며, 이를 위해 지난 주 대통령 사절단이 방한하게 된 것이다.