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Park fills spy agency’s key posts with North Korea experts

Cyber intelligence specialist, top prosecutor, and military official become new NIS deputy directors

Cheong Wa Dae has replaced key posts of the nation’s spy agency, in stern response to North Korea, amid heightening tensions triggered by the communist state’s recent nuclear test and long-range missile launch.

By selecting a cyber security expert, former prosecutor and military official respectively, the presidential house sent a signal that it will make all efforts to maximize intelligence capacities.

President Park Geun-hye named Choi Jong-il, former ambassador to Lebanon, as the new third deputy chief for the National Intelligence Service, spokesperson Jeong Yeon-guk said Tuesday.


A former military intelligence director at the Defense Ministry and deputy operation chief at the Combined Forces Command, Choi will oversee industrial intelligence and cyber security affairs, Jeong said.

Choi’s appointment came amid rising tensions between the two Koreas, following the North’s rocket launch on Sunday which was seen as a cover for testing its ballistic missile technology.

This is the first time that the president reshuffled all three leading posts of the spy agency in a single sweep. The president named the first and second deputy chiefs last Friday.

Kim Jin-sub, the intelligence secretary at the presidential National Security Office, is to become the first deputy chief in charge of overseas intelligence, with focus on North Korean issues.

“With his abundant knowledge and insight on national security, Kim is the right person for the given task amid these times of tension,” said Kim Sung-woo, chief presidential press secretary following the appointment announcement.

Observers pointed out that the appointment of a Cheong Wa Dae official to the NIS key post may reflect the president’s attempt to keep a hold on the spy agency during her last two years in term.

Some even suggested that it was an expression of reprimand upon the NIS for failing to preemptively detect signs of North Korea’s fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6.

But Cheong Wa Dae claimed that the personnel appointment was just a well-timed decision to replace the predecessors who have served their posts for several years.

The former first and third deputy chiefs have been in office since April 2013, shortly after the Park Geun-hye administration kicked off, and the second deputy chief since July 2014.

As for the second deputy director responsible for domestic affairs, Park picked Choi Yoon-soo, deputy head of the Busan High Prosecutors’ office.

Choi formerly worked at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ office and the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. As a long-time expert in the anti-corruption department, he led the investigation on the bribery allegations of former National Tax Service chief Han Sang-yul in 2011.

“Choi is expected to fulfill his duty with his lucid morality for public service and expertise in intelligence analysis,” the presidential press secretary said.

By Bae Hyun-jung (