For a year after the change of government in the NIS, personnel conflicts and a fight for position have continued. In addition, the recent personnel wave has been exposed to the outside world, centering on the political world. The content was that President Yoon Seok-yeol, who approved the personnel plan posted by Director Kim Kyu-hyun, received a report that there was a situation in which Director Kim’s aides inappropriately intervened in personnel management through another channel, and reversed the initial personnel plan and issued a standby order. In the background of the personnel conflict, there was a quarrel between internal forces following the change of government. The National Intelligence Service (NIS) is the nation’s top intelligence agency in charge of collecting information on North Korea, investigating anti-communist and industrial espionage, and responding to cyber terrorism. The fact that the personnel crisis of an organization where security is a vital factor is known to the outside is itself a signal of crisis for the NIS and exposing its abnormal appearance.
Experts pointed out that the organization of the NIS was severely damaged during the Moon Jae-in administration’s ‘clearing of accumulated corruption’. It is pointed out that the power struggle among NIS agents has become serious enough to shake the stability of the NIS organization as the liquidation and reverse liquidation of NIS employees have been repeated according to the regime’s line or North Korea policy stance. Lee Jong-chan, chairman of the National Liberation Committee, who served as the head of the National Intelligence Service, said, “We need to prepare a system so that personnel personnel are made based on professionalism and continuity in personnel personnel, just like the US Central Intelligence Agency ( CIA ) or Israel’s Mossad , which are not swayed by external winds such as regime change .”
In this NIS personnel scandal, which President Yoon Seok-yeol re-authorized and then reversed within a week, promotion of first-level executives and position personnel became a problem. Earlier this month, Director Kim Kyu-hyun received the sanction of President Yoon and conducted personnel appointments for 17 to 18 executives, including the head of the first-level department. this is raised On the other hand, people close to Mr. A said, “People who were dissatisfied with the liquidation of employees who participated in cooperation projects with North Korea or the promotion of the declaration of the end of the war during the Moon Jae-in administration started a counterattack against Mr. A.”
In the political world, over this personnel wave, during the Moon Jae-in administration, excessive liquidation of NIS agents in the name of ‘accumulation’ was carried out, and in the process of reverse liquidation after the regime change, conflicts between forces within the NIS emerged. It is said that one of the backgrounds for the conflict is the personnel management of Korean-style intelligence agents, where liquidation and reverse liquidation are repeated in accordance with changes in the power landscape, such as a change in power.
Former NIS senior executives said, “No matter what the truth is, personnel conflicts will continue unless personnel principles that NIS employees can relate to, such as professionalism, are not shared.” In other words, personnel with professionalism and continuity should be employed, such as Mossad in Israel, where the director has been in office for more than five years and agents have been tracking a terrorist organization for more than a decade, or the US Central Intelligence Agency ( CIA ), which prioritizes expertise regardless of regime change. While the average term of office for a CIA director is three to four years, the average term for a director of the National Intelligence Service in South Korea is one and a half years. In addition , teams dedicated to tracking hostile forces in the CIA or Mossad operate without replacing team members for more than a decade. It is a system that can maintain professionalism without being swayed by power.
However, a former NIS executive said, “In South Korea, depending on the regime, employees were repeatedly relegated and moderated depending on their field of responsibility, and a kind of gang was formed inside.” A passport official said, “This personnel wave is a clash between a group centered on Mr. A, who took the initiative in the NIS at the beginning of the regime, and a group opposing it.”
After the inauguration of the current administration, the conflict over internal personnel in the NIS continued throughout the year. Even when Cho Sang-joon, former head of the keynote office, who was classified as President Yoon’s closest aide during his time as a prosecutor, suddenly resigned in October of last year, four months after his appointment, it was rumored that it was because of conflict with Director Kim’s staff. An intelligence source said, “There were rumors of conflict between the group close to Director Kim, who said that a large number of agents who had been on the bandwagon of the former government’s NIS mainstream had to be changed, and the group, Chief Cho, who said a certain degree of harmony was needed to stabilize the organization.” In fact, the NIS undergoes a large-scale personnel change whenever the administration changes. People who suffered personnel losses in the previous government emerged as a result of the change of government, and those who gained power in the previous government were marginalized again. A typical example is that the proportion of roles in the organization of North Korea officials varies depending on whether it is a progressive or a conservative government.
In the case of the Moon Jae-in administration먹튀검증, from 2017, at the beginning of the regime, the NIS created the ‘Eradication Eradication TF’ and led the past government NIS personnel to investigations and trials. Prosecutors were dispatched to search through the NIS server and hand it over to the prosecution. As a result, several members of the NIS were investigated and put on trial due to civilian surveillance and political involvement cases, and the organization in charge of collecting domestic information was abolished.
Anti-aircraft investigations were also drastically reduced. For example, from 2016 to 2019, the NIS tracked and investigated former and current executives of the Confederation of Trade Unions and members of the “People’s Vanguard for Independent Reunification” who were arrested and prosecuted for violating the National Security Law. However, it is said that the investigation suddenly stopped and resumed after the Yoon Seok-yeol government took office in May of last year.
Some point out that the internal power struggle within the NIS has intensified, making it difficult to conduct normal personnel appointments. A former NIS executive said, “The fact that the personnel plan approved by the president was overturned means that the normal personnel system did not work.” Nam Joo-hong, chair professor at Kyonggi University, who served as the first deputy director of the NIS, said, “It is common for organizations to stand in line with the government, but if they have established their own personnel principles and obtained the consent of agents, it will not spread to waves.” “The health of the NIS organization is Crisis is evidence,” he said.
Many point out that Mr. A, whom Director Kim used as a staff member, is at the center of the controversy over personnel manipulation, and that the personnel reversal surrounding him is known to the outside world and shows that there is a problem with the current administration’s ability to control the NIS organization. Liberation Chairman Lee Jong-chan said, “In information work, professionalism should be given priority, but it is easy to misjudge if we judge after hearing some stories.” On the other hand, a former NIS executive said, “Due to the nature of an intelligence agency, it is possible that the fact that the staff reversal was made known to the outside world is a counterattack from personnel complaints.” These conflicts were exposed to the outside world in the form of letters and reports. A former NIS official said, “It is a serious situation where the know-how of NIS agents specializing in catching spies is being used for slander and letter writing against the other party.”