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National Intelligence Service

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.

The Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) was originally established on June 19, 1961 as the directly under the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction in the immediate aftermath of the May 16, 1961, military coup. Its duties were to "supervise and coordinate both international and domestic intelligence activities and criminal investigation by all government intelligence agencies, including that of the military." Its mission was akin to that of a combined United States Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The first head of the KCIA was Kim Chong-p'il. Kim, utilizing the existing Army Counterintelligence Corps, built a 3,000-member organization--the most powerful intelligence and investigatory agency in the republic. The KCIA maintained a complex set of interlocking institutional links with almost all of the government's key decision-making bodies. The KCIA had a nearmonopoly over crucial information concerning national security under the charter of the Act Concerning Protection of Military Secrets and, more importantly, possessed considerable veto power over other agencies through its supervisory and coordination functions.

The KCIA's practically unlimited power to investigate and to detain any person accused of antistate behavior severely restricted the right to dissent or to criticize the regime. The frequent questioning, detention, or even prosecution of dissidents, opposition figures, and reporters seriously jeopardized basic freedoms and created an atmosphere of political repression.

Under Park, the lack of advancement in civil liberties continued to be justified by referring to the threat from North Korea. The political influence of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the police declined in the face of the KCIA's power. The relationship between the police and general public, however, was not significantly altered. As Se-Jin Kim wrote in 1971: "The former still act with arbitrary arrogance; the latter respond with fear but not respect."

The government often used martial law or garrison decree in response to political unrest. From 1961 to 1979, martial law or a variant was evoked eight times. The October 15, 1971, garrison decree, for example, was triggered by student protests and resulted in the arrest of almost 2,000 students. A year later, on October 17, 1972, Park proclaimed martial law, disbanded the National Assembly, and placed many opposition leaders under arrest. In November the yusin constitution (yusin means revitalization), which greatly increased presidential power, was ratified by referendum under martial law.

The government grew even more authoritarian, governing by presidential emergency decrees in the immediate aftermath of the establishment of the yusin constitution; nine emergency decrees were declared between January 1974 and May 1975. The Park regime strengthened the originally draconian National Security Act of 1960 and added an even more prohibitive Anticommunism Law. Under those two laws and Emergency Measure Number Nine, any kind of antigovernment activity, including critical speeches and writings, was open to interpretation as a criminal act of "sympathizing with communism or communists" or "aiding antigovernment organizations." Political intimidation, arbitrary arrests, preventive detention, and brutal treatment of prisoners were not uncommon.

Opposition to the government and its harsh measures increased as the economy worsened in 1979. Scattered labor unrest and the government's repressive reactions sparked widespread public dissent: mass resignation of the opposition membership in the National Assembly and student and labor riots in Pusan, Masan, and Ch'angwon. The government declared martial law in the cities. In this charged atmosphere, under circumstances that appeared related to dissatisfaction with Park's handling of the unrest, on October 26, 1979, KCIA chief Kim Chae-gyu killed Park and the chief of the Presidential Security Force, Ch'a Chi-ch'ol, and then was himself arrested. Emergency martial law was immediately declared to deal with the crisis, placing the head of the Defense Security Command, Major General Chun Doo Hwan, in a position of considerable military and political power.

After the 1979 assassination of President Park Chung Hee by the KCIA director, the KCIA was purged and temporarily lost much of its power. Chun Doo Hwan used his tenure as acting director of the KCIA from April to July 1980 to expand his power base beyond the military. p>

The slow pace of reform led to growing popular unrest. In early May 1980, student demonstrators protested a variety of political and social issues, including the government's failure to lift emergency martial law imposed following Park's assassination. The student protests spilled into the streets, reaching their peak during May 13 to 16, at which time the student leaders obtained a promise that the government would attempt to speed up reform. The military's response, however, was political intervention led by Lieutenant General Chun Doo Hwan, then KCIA chief and army chief of staff. Chun, who had forced the resignation of Ch'oe's cabinet, banned political activities, assemblies, and rallies, and arrested many ruling and opposition politicians. In Kwangju, demonstrations to protest the extension of martial law and the arrest of Kim Dae Jung turned into rebellion as demonstrators reacted to the brutal tactics of the Special Forces sent to the city. The government did not regain control of the city for nine days, after some 200 deaths.

The KCIA was renamed the Agency for National Security Planning, and its powers were redefined in presidential orders and legislation. The ANSP, like its predecessor, was a cabinet-level agency directly accountable to the president. The director of the ANSP continued to have direct presidential access. In March 1981, the ANSP was redesignated as the principal agency for collecting and processing all intelligence. The requirement for all other agencies with intelligence-gathering and analysis functions in their charters to coordinate their activities with the ANSP was reaffirmed.

Legislation passed at the end of 1981 further redefined the ANSP's legally mandated functions to include the collection, compilation, and distribution of foreign and domestic information regarding public safety against communists and plots to overthrow the government. The maintenance of public safety with regard to documents, materials, facilities, and districts designated as secrets of the state was the purview of the ANSP as was the investigation of crimes of insurrection and foreign aggression, crimes of rebellion, aiding and abetting the enemy, disclosure of military secrets, and crimes provided for in the Act Concerning Protection of Military Secrets and the National Security Act. The investigation of crimes related to duties of intelligence personnel, the supervision of information collection, and the compilation and distribution of information on other agencies' activities designed to maintain public safety also were undertaken by the ANSP. By 1983 the ANSP had rebounded and again was the preeminent foreign and domestic intelligence organization.

Discontent was kept under control until 1987 by the regime's extensive security services--particularly the Agency for National Security Planning, the Defense Security Command (DSC), and the Combat Police of the Korean National Police (KNP). Both the civilian ANSP and the military DSC not only collected domestic intelligence but also continued "intelligence politics."

The Act Concerning Assembly and Demonstration was used to limit the expression of political opposition by prohibiting assemblies likely to "undermine" public order. Advanced police notification of all demonstrations was required. Violation carried a maximum sentence of seven years' imprisonment or a fine. Most peaceful nonpolitical assemblies took place without government interference. However, the act was the most frequently used tool to control political activity in the Fifth Republic, and the Chun regime was responsible for over 84 percent of the 6,701 investigations pursued under the act.

The security presence in city centers, near university campuses, government and party offices, and media centers was heavy. Citizens, particularly students and young people, were subject to being stopped, questioned, and searched without due process. The typical response to demonstrations was disruption by large numbers of Combat Police, short-term mass detention of demonstrators, and selective prosecution of the organizers. Arrest warrants--required by law--were not always produced at the time of arrest in political cases.

The National Security Act increasingly was used after 1985 to suppress domestic dissent. Intended to restrict "antistate activities endangering the safety of the state and the lives and freedom of the citizenry," the act also was used to control and punish nonviolent domestic dissent. Its broad definition of offenses allowed enforcement over the widest range, wider than that of any other politically relevant law in South Korea. Along with other politically relevant laws such as the Social Safety Act and the Act Concerning Crimes Against the State, it weakened or removed procedural protection available to defendants in nonpolitical cases.

Questioning by the security services often involved not only psychological or physical abuse, but outright torture. The 1987 torture and death of Pak Chong-ch'ol, a student at Seoul National University being questioned as to the whereabouts of a classmate, played a decisive role in galvanizing public opposition to the government's repressive tactics.

The security services not only detained those accused of violating laws governing political dissent, but also put under various lesser forms of detention--including house arrest--those people, including opposition politicians, who they thought intended to violate the laws. Many political, religious, and other dissidents were subjected to surveillance by government agents. Opposition assembly members later charged in the National Assembly that telephone tapping and the interception of correspondence were prevalent. Ruling party assembly members, government officials, and senior military officials probably also were subjected to this interferencal though they did not openly complain.

Listening to North Korean radio stations remained illegal in 1990 if it were judged to be for the purpose of "benefiting the antistate organization" (North Korea). Similarly, books or other literature considered subversive, procommunist, or pro-North Korean were illegal; authors, publishers, printers, and distributors of such material were subject to arrest.

Use of tear gas by the police (over 260,000 tear gas shells were used in 1987 to quell demonstrations) increasingly was criticized; the criticism eventually resulted in legal restrictions on tear gas use in 1989. The government continued, however, to block many "illegal" gatherings organized by dissidents that were judged to incite "social unrest." In 1988 government statistics noted 6,552 rallies involving 1.7 million people. There were 2.2 million people who had particiated in 6,791 demonstrations in 1989.

As of 1990, the organizational structure of the ANSP, was considered classified by Seoul, although earlier organizational information was public knowledge. Despite the social and political changes that came with the Sixth Republic, the ANSP apparently still considered the support and maintenance of the president in power to be one of its most important roles. In April 1990, for example, ruling Democratic Liberal Party (DLP) coleader Kim Young Sam complained that he and members of his faction within the DLP had been subjected to "intelligence maneuvering in politics" that included wiretapping, surveillance, and financial investigations.

Nevertheless, the ANSP's domestic powers were indeed curtailed under the Sixth Republic. Prior to the change, the ANSP had free access to all government offices and files. The ANSP, Defense Security Command, Office of the Prosecutor General, Korean National Police, and the Ministry of Justice had stationed their agents in the National Assembly to collect information on the activities of politicians. In May 1988, however, overt ANSP agents, along with agents of other intelligence agencies, were withdrawn from the National Assembly building. The ANSP's budget was not made public, nor apparently was it made available in any useful manner to the National Assembly in closed sessions. In July 1989, pressured by opposition parties and public opinion, the ANSP was subjected to inspection and audit by the National Assembly for the first time in eighteen years. The ANSP removed its agents from the chambers of the Seoul Criminal Court and the Supreme Court in 1988.

As of 1990, however, the ANSP remained deeply involved in domestic politics and was not prepared to relinquish the power to prevent radical South Korean ideas--much less North Korean ideas- -from circulating in South Korean society. Despite an agreement in September 1989 by the chief policymakers of the ruling and opposition parties to strip the ANSP of its power to investigate pro-North Korean activity (a crime under the National Security Act), the ANSP continued enforcing this aspect of the law rather than limiting itself to countering internal and external attempts to overthrow the government. The ANSP continued to pick up radical student and dissident leaders for questioning without explanation.

In another move to limit the potential for the ANSP to engage in "intelligence politics," the ANSP Information Coordination Committee was disbanded because of its history of unduly influencing other investigating authorities, such as the Office of the Prosecutor General. Additionally, the ANSP, responding to widespread criticism of its alleged human rights violations, set up a "watchdog" office to supervise its domestic investigations and to prevent agents from abusing their powers while interrogating suspects.

Aside from its controversial internal security mission, the ANSP also was known for its foreign intelligence gathering and analysis and for its investigation of offenses involving external subversion and military secrets. The National Unification Board and the ANSP (and the KCIA before it) were the primary sources of government analysis and policy direction for South Korea's reunification strategy and contacts with North Korea. The intelligence service's reputation in pursuing counterespionage cases also was excellent.

The ANSP monitored visitors, particularly from communist and East European countries, to prevent industrial and military espionage. Following the diplomatic successes of the late 1980s-- the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe, and the increased informal contacts with China, Mongolia, and Vietnam--this mission grew in importance. The security watch list contained 162 out of 3,808 visitors from communist nations in 1988 and 226 out of 6,444 visitors in 1989.

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:

Sources and Resources


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