Image: Seal of the National Intelligence Service. Credit: Wikipedia Commons.
South Korea’s spy agency fell into turmoil when it contradicted the Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열 administration’s claims against Moon Jae-in 문재인 administration officials.
In a briefing held before the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee 국회 정보위원회 on October 26, the National Intelligence Service 국가정보원 stated that the intercepted communication between North Korean soldiers, collected jointly by South Korea and the United States, specifically contained the word “defect” 월북 while referring to the South Korean civilian who was killed in North Korean waters in September 2020. (See previous coverage, “Yoon Turns to McCarthyism.”)
Previously, the Yoon administration had arrested former Defense Minister Seo Uk 서욱 전 국방부장관 and former Coast Guard chief Kim Hong-hee 김홍희 on the grounds that they had fabricated the narrative of the slain South Korean attempting to defect into North Korea and deleted intelligence indicating the contrary. The NIS, however, stated to the Intelligence Committee that there had been no order to delete any intelligence.
Meanwhile, NIS’s deputy chief Jo Sang-jun 조상준 국가정보원 기획조정실장 abruptly resigned on October 26, citing “personal reasons.” Reportedly, the Office of the President 대통령실 directly ordered Jo’s termination, after Jo clashed with the NIS chief Kim Gyu-hyeon 김규현 국정원장 on the appointments of high-ranking NIS officials. Previously, the Yoon administration removed all 27 section chiefs 국장 of the NIS, a spy agency purge unprecedented in South Korean history in scale. (See previous coverage, “Yoon Purges Spy Agency.”)