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LKP asks for probe into NIS head

Party says Suh Hoon meeting DP strategist broke intelligence law
May 29,2019
The main opposition party said Tuesday that it will ask the prosecution to investigate the head of the main intelligence agency for allegedly intervening in politics by meeting the ruling party’s election strategist.

The Liberty Korea Party (LKP) said it will ask the prosecution to open a criminal investigation into Suh Hoon, the director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS). The LKP said Suh is suspected of violating the National Intelligence Service Act, which bans its members from participating in political activities, for meeting with a Democratic Party (DP) think tank head.

The Fact, an internet media outlet, reported on Monday that Suh met with Yang Jeong-cheol, director of the Institute for Democracy, the DP think tank, for about four hours at a restaurant in southern Seoul on May 21. The report included photos and video footage of them bidding farewell after the meeting. Yang later explained that “it was a dinner of several friends who have known each other for a long time, not a one-on-one meeting,” but the opposition parties said it was inappropriate for Suh to meet with Yang.

Yang is a close associate of President Moon Jae-in’s. After taking on the role as head of the ruling party’s think tank earlier this month, Yang said his primary mission is the DP’s victory in next year’s general elections. Suh was named as head of the NIS by Moon shortly after he took office in May 2017. They both served on Moon’s presidential campaign.

“One is a person who runs an organization to prepare for general elections,” Hwang said. “The other is the head of the NIS. Their meeting is not something we can treat lightly.”

Rep. Na Kyung-won, the floor leader of the LKP, said the NIS chief is overtly intervening in elections.

The LKP also said it wants to hold a National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee hearing to reveal the truth about their meeting.

“There are various ways for the party and the legislature to summon Suh, so we will consider them,” Rep. Na said.

The chairwoman of the Assembly’s intelligence committee, Rep. Lee Hye-hoon of the Bareunmirae Party, said Tuesday that it is necessary for the committee to meet and discuss the controversial meeting by the NIS chief.

According to Lee, Suh and Yang appeared to have spent about one hour alone with each other at the dinner. The initial report about their dinner said the meeting started at 6:20 p.m. and ended around 10:45 p.m.

“I have talked to the media that first broke the story,” said Lee. “They appeared to be alone from 9:40 p.m. till 10:45 p.m. There were no other guests at the restaurant, and they were left alone by the time at 10:45 p.m. It should be seen as one-on-one meeting. They met exclusively for more than one hour.

“It is reasonable to conclude that they had discussed how best to use the North Korea issues for the ruling party ahead of the general election,” Lee said. “I am the chairwoman of the intelligence committee, but even I was not able to have a one-on-one meeting with Suh,” Lee said. “It is a sensitive time and sensitive people had a meeting. This is a serious issue, and we need to know the truth.”

She said that an intelligence committee meeting has not taken place in recent weeks due to the LKP’s boycott of the legislative activities. “We need to convene a meeting and find out who else Suh had met and what he discussed,” Lee said.

In an interview with KBS radio earlier in the morning, Lee also said Yang and Suh must not use the lame excuse that their meeting was nothing more than a dinner with friends.

“They argue that it was a meeting of friends, so it shouldn’t be a problem,” Lee said. “How is it different from former President Park Geun-hye meeting with Choi Soon-sil to discuss various things because Choi was a longtime friend as close as a family member, and arguing later that there was no problem?”

BY SER MYO-JA, PARK KWANG-SOO [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]