The NIS report on Jang Song Thaek purge—my take


I was asked what my thoughts are on the controversial NIS report on Jang Song Thaek’s purge. It is yet beyond verification whether Jang was actually purged or not and there were reports which brought up that Jang may already have lost his influence in early this year. I’d like to focus on the NIS itself instead.


I was a bit skeptical when I first heard it since I already saw lots of intelligence failure of the NIS in recent years. Intelligence capacity of the NIS is said to have taken serious damages in recent decades. Some say “progressive” administrations of Kim Dae-joong and Roh Moo-hyun, who wanted to improve inter-Korean relations, are to blame while the others say it was Won Se-hoon, former NIS director and a close aid of Lee Myung-bak, who damaged the service’s capacity by a calamitous personnel management. However, there seems to be no dispute that its capacity is faltering.


NIS slightly backing off from its initial report has made me more skeptical of its competence and legitimacy. We need to look around the background of what happened.

It was Jung Chung-rae, secretary of the intelligence committee of the National Assembly, who was reported by a senior NIS official. At that time, there were a lot of discussions of installing a special committee for NIS reform in the assembly. It makes me think that the NIS was trying to impress a powerful member of the assembly, hoping for some positive effect, from NIS’s point of view of course, to making of a NIS reform plan.


Leave a Reply