President Moon vows independence for spy agency

SEOUL, July 20 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in on Friday pledged to guarantee the independence of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and help the agency stay free from politics.

"I certainly promise that the government will never use the NIS for political purposes," Moon said after receiving a report from the spy agency. "I will never exact loyalty from you."

The briefing marked the first official report from the NIS since Moon took office in May 2017, though Cheong Wa Dae, especially the National Security Office (NSO), has been working closely with the spy agency to engage with North Korea.

Moon said the NIS played a major role in helping organize the historic inter-Korean summit talks and the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

NIS chief Suh Hoon visited Pyongyang, together with the NSO head Chung Eui-yong, in March. Their visit has since led to two inter-Korean summits, as well as the historic Trump-Kim summit, held in Singapore last month.

But the president called for painstaking efforts to conduct sweeping reform of the agency, which has been under fire for being involved in political affairs in previous governments.

Under previous governments, the NIS was said to make daily reports to the president and top presidential secretaries. But Moon ordered the discontinuation of the practice shortly after coming into office, noting the spy agency had often been used by Cheong Wa Dae to meddle in local politics.

The NIS is accused of having influenced public opinions in the past by posting and manipulating comments on Internet news stories.

As part of efforts to prevent political meddling, the Moon Jae-in government decided to entirely remove the NIS' local anti-espionage activities from its list of missions.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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