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Intelligence


National Intelligence Service

As part of the Moon administration's goal of decentralizing the power of the nation's most powerful agencies, the ruling Democratic Party, the Blue House and the government vowed 30 July 2020 to rename the nation's top intelligence agency. During a meeting at the parliament, they decided to rename the National Intelligence Service as what's been unofficially translated as the "External Security and Intelligence Service". The change is aimed at restricting the agency from meddling in local politics. They also pledged to push through with policies to make the prosecution's hierarchical relationship with the police into a more cooperative relationship. The prosecution's right to hold direct investigations will be limited to only certain areas. Legislation to localize the police will also be submitted.

The Korea Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) was created in 1961, and in 1981 the agency changed its name to the Agency for National Security Planning (NSP). In 1994, the NSP had its law revised following the agreement between Korea's ruling and opposition parties and established an "Information Committee" in the Assembly to lay a foundation for political neutrality. The NSP also launched operations against international crime and terrorism to protect the Korean people from international organized crime.

In 1995, by relocating to a new intelligence building equipped with up-to-date facilities in Naegok-dong, southern Seoul, from its 34-year-old site in Mt. Nam in downtown Seoul and Imun-dong, eastern Seoul, the NSP laid the cornerstone to becoming a 21st century, advanced intelligence agency. With the inauguration of the People's Government, on 22 January 1999 the agency was renamed the National Intelligence Service (NIS). The former Minister of Defense Chun Yong-taek took office as the 23rd Director General of the National Intelligence Service on 26 May 1999. He had served as National Assemblyman, Party member of the Government of the People, Minister of Defense, and Lieutenant-general in the armed forces reserve.

National Intelligence Service missions and functions include:

  • Collection, coordination, and distribution of information on the nation's strategy and security
  • Investigation of crimes affecting national security, including crimes that violate the Military Secrecy Protection Law, the National Security Law, which prohibit the incitement of civil war, foreign troubles, and insurrection
  • Investigation of crimes related to the missions of NIS staff
  • Maintenance of documents, materials, and facilities related to the nation's classified information
  • Planning and coordination of information and classified information

Following the division of the Korean peninsula, North Korea waged an all-out war against South Korea for three years and has since committed numerous terrorist attacks and provocations, which threatened South Korea's security. The NIS monitors signs of possible North Korean provocations and factors constituting security threats, and formulates measures to handle them. The NIS closely assesses the latest developments in the North Korean political, military, diplomatic, economic, and social scenes, and judges their possible impact on South Korea to help the government formulate and implement a more effective policy on North Korea.

The NIS methodically detects, monitors, and prevents foreign espionage against the Republic of Korea by such means as intelligence collection and secret operations. It also proactively responds to other foreign infiltrations against the Republic of Korea's security and interests, in addition to espionage.

On January 25th, 2003, the entire Internet of the ROK was paralyzed by the Slammer Worm. This incident has raised the need for a comprehensive and systematic response taken at the national level for cyber security, which has led to the establishment of the National Cyber Security Center on February 20, 2004.

The National Industrial Security Center protects the valuable technologies of the ROK. In the 21st century's global competition, advanced science and technologies are important factors in assessing the competitiveness of a company and a country. Therefore, countries around the globe are engaged in a fierce economic war to the extent of trying to acquire their counterpart country's industrial intelligence by all means while focusing on the development of advanced technologies to secure their own country's national competitive advantages.

The leakage of advanced technologies that were developed with the investment of significant capital and human resources may lead to a serious loss of competitiveness at the national level in addition to the company whose technology was leaked.

In recognition of such a crisis, the National Industrial Security Center was established in October 2003 and has been engaged in prevention activities including industrial security training and security consulting as well as activities to track down industrial spies to prevent the illegal leakage of advanced technologies and management information of ROK companies and research institutes to overseas entities.

With the advent of the global era based on the rapid development of science and ICT, international criminal organizations commit organized trans-border crimes such as drug, counterfeit money, and financial fraud using global connections. Moreover, international crimes are becoming a comprehensive security threat to national security as their criminal techniques are ever-evolving to become more skillful and new types of crimes utilizing high-tech ICT are increasing. The NIS established and operated the International Crime Information Center (ICIC) since January 1994 in order to protect the life and property of the Korean people as well as national security from international crimes.

In the 21st century, the boundaries among countries have blurred due to globalization. While the threat of war has gradually decreased, the threat of terrorism is becoming more widespread. Even at this moment, terrorism is ruthlessly taking precious lives away for various reasons, and this is becoming rampant in many places around the world. Terrorism has emerged as a pressing issue that all humanity should jointly resolve. The ROK is also not immune from terrorism with the growth in overseas travel by Korean citizens and the country's enhanced national status. The Terrorism Information Integration Center strives to protect the precious lives and property of the Korean people on close cooperation with related organizations both at home and abroad.

At the National Assembly, the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) pushed on with its filibuster 10 December 2020, making their case against a bill that would strip the National Intelligence Service of its domestic investigative powers. The PPP continued to block passage of a bill on reforming the state spy agency.

The bill to revise the law on the National Intelligence Service(NIS) was put forth by the ruling Democratic Party(DP). It aims to strip the spy agency of the power to investigate South Korean citizens suspected of spying for North Korea, instead transferring that authority to police three years from now. The NIS would redirect its focus to intelligence-gathering on overseas sources, including North Korea.

The PPP cast doubts over whether the police would have the skills and experience to investigate espionage suspects, arguing that the revised bill would disable the NIS from fully utilizing its assets. To that, the DP counters the spy agency could pass on a curated set of relevant intelligence from its wide database. It holds that it wants to stem human rights violations in the NIS' purported anti-communist probes of the past.

The ruling party is able to limit the opposition party's filibuster to 24 hours with support from three-fifths of incumbent lawmakers, but it opted not to immediately take that route. While the DP said it will respect the opposition's right to speak, the party is also likely aiming to deflect criticism that it had destroyed parliamentary democracy in rushing through revisions to another bill, on the Corruption Investigation Office for High-Ranking Officials(CIO).




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