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[Editorial] Espionage investigation

Aug. 1, 2011 - 18:38 By
Reports of the ongoing investigation into an alleged espionage network for North Korea brings us to a dj vu of the 1960s or 70s when the authorities occasionally, or rather frequently, exposed subversive groups maneuvering to collect information here and topple the government on orders from Pyongyang. Suspects often included staff members of political parties, and those parties thus named claimed this was an attempt by the authoritarian government at political suppression.

The probe into the so-called “Wangjaesan” espionage group which led to the arrest of five people and the questioning of scores on the list of recruitment has invited strong repercussions from the Democratic Labor Party and the Democratic Party. Among the arrested was a former secretary to Lim Chae-jung, National Assembly speaker in 2006-08, who belongs to the Democratic Party. This man is suspected of having contacted the DLP and DP members, including heads of autonomous districts.

Naturally, the parties whose members are implicated in the investigation are crying “witch hunt” with ulterior purposes of disrupting the opposition activities. Spokespersons pointed to the inclusion of the “Nation 21” magazine as a target of the probe, referring to the fact that its current publisher is Buddhist priest Myungjin, a vocal critic of the Lee Myung-bak government.

The National Intelligence Service and the prosecution should be extra cautious not to raise concerns in the political circles about possible extension of their probe into an ideological checkup of opposition members in connection with their relatively open attitudes toward North Korea. In order to clear any suspicion, the opposition parties need to assist in the investigation voluntarily without hesitating to provide materials required for the probe.

The ruling Grand National Party is criticizing opposition parties for trying to influence the investigation with claims of political motivation. The GNP, for its part, should be advised against any meddling in the affair so as not to stir the political community with the alleged espionage incident.

Everybody is aware that we live in the 21st century when no sane person would ever dream of toppling the democratic system here on orders from the floundering regime in the North. The charges are so fantastic that investigation authorities only need to work in the most realistic manner, totally excluding political considerations on any suspect.