New National Intelligence Service director Suh Hoon on Thursday ordered the abolition of domestic intelligence operations, setting in motion a campaign to reform the spy agency long suspected of meddling in politics to support ruling elites.
Suh issued the order shortly after President Moon Jae-in conferred an appointment certificate on him and called for "thoroughly" banning the NIS from engaging in politics.
President Moon Jae-in (left) speaks with new National Intelligence Service Director Suh Hoon during a ceremony conferring an appointment certificate to Suh at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on June 1, 2017. (Yonhap)
Under the order, the NIS immediately stopped the operations of all NIS operatives tasked with gathering information related to government ministries and agencies, media and other organizations, the NIS said in a press release.
It is in line with Moon's election pledge to insulate the NIS from politics and make it focus on its overseas operations.
"The NIS will become a completely different entity within the Moon government's term and be reborn as an agency for the nation and citizens," Suh was quoted as saying during his inauguration ceremony.
Suh also decided to launch a panel to discuss the mid- and long-term development of the agency and ways to strengthen its intelligence-gathering capabilities. The panel will consist of NIS staff as well as outside experts, the agency said.
"Those who fail to adapt to a new era will die out and those who fail to abide by the rules and order will face corresponding measures," Suh said.
"A zero tolerance principle will be applied," he added.
NIS reform has been a major task for the new president as the agency has lost public confidence due to its alleged political activities.
Some NIS agents were purported to have posted online comments to sway the presidential election in 2012 in which Moon was pitted against former President Park Geun-hye. Suh has vowed to launch a reinvestigation into the allegation.
Earlier in the day, Moon appointed three NIS deputy directors, completing the leadership lineup of the agency.
He appointed Seoul's Ambassador to Pakistan Suh Dong-gu as the first deputy director, while choosing Kim Joon-hwan, a former head of a regional NIS office, as the second deputy director. Kim Sang-gyun, a former chief of the NIS's North Korea strategy, was named the third deputy director.
The first deputy director is tasked with gleaning intelligence on North Korea and overseas affairs, while the second deputy director is in charge of espionage and terrorism. The third deputy director is charged with communications and cyberissues. (Yonhap)