|National Intelligence Service chief Nam Jae-joon. (Joint Press Corps)|
The National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee decided Monday to cut the National Intelligence Service’s budget for domestic operations amid growing controversy over its agents’ alleged interference in last year’s presidential election.
The gross budget for the spy agency will not be affected, however, as the funds cut from the NIS’ domestic branch were allocated to the intelligence agency’s operations against North Korea and industrial espionage, the members of the committee said.
The proposed adjustment is subject to further review by the related parliamentary panels and a vote at a full parliamentary session before taking effect.
The Intelligence Committee’s decision was bipartisan, according to Rep. Jung Cheong-rae of the main opposition Democratic Party. The NIS did not raise any objections to the decision, he added.
He said NIS officials agreed more funds were needed to successfully indict industrial spies.
“We have decided to keep the total budget as it stands, but cut funds for units that are under the NIS’ second deputy director, as the said units are still undergoing investigation over allegations that they interfered in last year’s presidential elections,” said Jung.
The NIS has been in the public spotlight in recent months after online comments posted by NIS officers were suspected to have potentially favored then-ruling camp candidate Park Geun-hye and slandered the opposition candidates during the 2012 presidential elections.
There has not been a final court ruling on whether the intelligence service did in fact illegally intervene in last year’s election.
The opaque financial expenditure of the NIS has been a divisive issue for lawmakers assigned to reform the agency. The NIS does not disclose details of its budget use, unlike other government agencies.
The parliament activated a special reform committee for the intelligence agency earlier this month after the ruling Saenuri Party and the DP agreed in principle about refining the NIS, albeit disagreeing on the details.
Opposition members of parliament demanded a detailed account of how the spy agency spends its money at the National Assembly’s special committee on budgets and accounts. The Saenuri Party and the NIS countered by saying that such reports would endanger the efficacy of intelligence operations by revealing details of the NIS’ espionage activities to foreign officials, including North Korean spies.
By Jeong Hunny (email@example.com)