Korea's lawmakers to grill spy agency over hacking scandal

Lawmakers are set to begin a parliamentary probe this week into allegations that the nation's spy agency purchased a hacking programme to wiretap civilians, starting with an analysis of related computer files.

Starting from Monday, the National Assembly's Intelligence Committee will begin a session to hear from the National Intelligence Service's top officials, including its chief Lee Byung-ho, about the result of the agency's internal investigation. The NIS has been recovering the deleted data of its official who committed suicide earlier this month over the burgeoning scandal.

The main political parties are expected to lock horns over the sufficiency of the spy agency's internal probe to dispel the widespread public suspicion over the NIS' civilian surveillance.

The ruling Saenuri Party has been urging the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy to accept the results and accused it of politicizing the sensitive matter involving national security.

The NPAD, for its part, is expected to launch a full-fledged blame game by criticising the ruling bloc for protecting the spy agency citing widespread public distrust and a number of lingering suspicions of an alleged cover-up by the NIS, particularly over the death of its agent. The agent was found dead in his car in an apparent suicide after having deleted relevant records on his computer.

"I understand the NIS has recovered 100 per cent of the delated files and are analysing what it has retrieved," said Rep. Moon Jeong-lim, floor speaker of Saenuri Party. "The NIS should come forward and tell the people exactly what happened without an ounce of doubt. I am confident they will," said Moon.

"Besides, given the threat from North Korea's cyberattack, we need to stop compromising our cyberwarfare capability and discouraging those dedicated to enhancing the capability. NPAD should refrain from seeking political gains (over the hacking scandal)," added Moon.

NPAD, however, demanded the agency go extra miles to prove that it had not engaged in any irregularities. The opposition urged the spy agency to submit some 30 documents, including all log files of the Remote Control System, a software that can tap into mobile phone.

The opposition asserted that the files would be the best way for the NIS to clear wiretapping charges as they recorded data about how the hacking device was being used. NIS has refused to disclose the files, citing it might contain sensitive national security information.

"We expect sincere co-operation from the NIS during a parliamentary session to hear from the officials," said Rep. Kang Hee-yong, NPAD vice spokesman in a statement. "We will treat the session as a de facto parliamentary hearing. We are committed to getting to the bottom of the scandal," said Kang.

"If the NIS refuses to change its attitude toward the scandal, it will face a full-fledged national inspection and special prosecution. We urged NIS and Saenuri Party to help us reveal any wrongdoings and bring the nation back on track," said Kang.

The hacking allegations are expected to be discussed at three other parliamentary committees opening this month including the communications committee, defence committee and security committee.

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