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Yoon replaces spy agency leadership

Nov. 26, 2023 - 17:58 By Son Ji-hyoung
From left: National Intelligence Service First Deputy Director Kwon Chun-taek, NIS chief Kim Kyou-hyun and NIS Second Deputy Director Kim Soo-youn sit during the parliamentary audit of the NIS on Nov. 1. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol accepted the National Intelligence Service head Kim Kyou-hyun's offer to step down from the post without naming his successor.

Yoon's office said Sunday in a statement that Kim "reestablished NIS' position as the nation's top agency dedicated to security and intelligence, and put in efforts to set up a system for cooperation with allies' intelligence agencies." Kim, former deputy national security adviser, was tapped as the spy agency chief in May 2022.

The decision was part of a leadership reshuffle of the spy agency, as Yoon also approved the resignations of NIS first deputy director Kwon Chun-taek and second deputy director Kim Soo-youn. Kwon was replaced by former diplomat Hong Jang-won and Kim by Hwang Won-jin, former head of an intelligence unit on North Korea within the agency.

The helm of the intelligence agency will remain vacated for the time being. Hong, the new first deputy director, will lead the spy agency during the transitional period, according to Yoon's office.

A NIS chief nominee is subject to a parliamentary confirmation hearing.

Yoon replacing the entire NIS leadership as soon as he returned home on Sunday was widely viewed as being of a dismissive nature, according to political observers and local reports.

The first deputy director of the NIS is responsible for collecting intelligence from overseas and antiterrorism activities, and the second deputy director is tasked with handling North Korea-related intelligence and counterintelligence.