[Ferry Disaster] Despair sinks in over Sewol

Rival parties struggle to find compromise over spy agency reform

Rival parties struggle to find compromise over spy agency reform

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Published : 2013-12-24 14:20
Updated : 2013-12-24 15:00

The ruling and opposition parties struggled Tuesday to find a compromise over how to reform the National Intelligence Service mainly to ensure its political non-interference following revelations of its alleged tampering with last year's presidential race.

The ruling Saenuri and the main opposition Democratic parties have been in negotiations to set new rules of activity for the spy agency accused of mobilizing some of its agents to post Internet comments last year in favor of then ruling party presidential candidate and now President Park Geun-hye.

The talks are in the final stage, but thorny points still remain, officials said.

After failing to reach agreement in the previous day's talks, Rep. Kim Jae-won, the ruling party leader on the special parliamentary committee, met one-on-one with his opposition counterpart, Rep. Moon Byung-ho, on Tuesday morning in another attempt to resolve differences.

But prospects of agreement are dim as the two sides are wide apart on key remaining points.

Basically, the opposition party calls for limiting the roles of the agency as much as possible while the ruling party wants to keep most of its roles intact, especially after intelligence on North Korea gained greater significance following Pyongyang's execution of leader Kim Jong-un's uncle.

One of the points at issue is what to do about the practice of the agency sending intelligence officers to monitor day-to-day activities of government agencies, the National Assembly, political parties and news organizations. Critics have denounced the practice as unwarranted spying.

"It is a practically impossible idea to regulate by law the activities" of intelligence agents, said Rep. Kim of the ruling party during a radio interview earlier in the day, apparently referring to the agency's monitoring of government agencies.

Earlier this month, the NIS came up with a package of self-reform measures, including a promise not to send intelligence officers, known as IOs, to the National Assembly, political parties and news organizations for monitoring activity. But it said IO visits to government agencies should continue.

The opposition party calls for banning IO visits to all government agencies.

Another contentious point is how to regulate the agency's "psychological warfare" against North Korea, an operation that critics say was abused as a pretext for the alleged election meddling activities.

Kim of the ruling party claimed during the radio interview that it is nonsense and would cause the nation a great loss to regulate the "psychological warfare" operation by law because such operations should be flexible in nature.

Kim's opposition counterpart, Moon, said during the same radio interview that the two sides have moved closer to an agreement on the parliamentary intelligence committee strengthening its oversight of the spy agency. He also stressed that the agency's activity should be defined by law to make sure it doesn't overstep its authority. (Yonhap News)

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