The nation's top intelligence agency is considering filing a complaint with the prosecution against its former chief as he appears to have revealed confidential information he obtained during his leadership from 2006-2008.
Last week, Kim Man-bok, who led the National Intelligence Service during the former Roh Moo-hyun administration, disclosed in a media interview that Roh and former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il were able to talk with each other at anytime through a direct telephone hotline.
The two leaders "talked much" through the hotline, though the content has not been disclosed, the former NIS director said in the interview. Kim also said that the hotline was first installed during the former Kim Dae-jung government.
The NIS believes that Kim apparently broke the law banning former and current NIS employees from revealing state secrets that they got informed of while performing their official duties.
The law also bans an NIS employee from publishing a book concerning his or her NIS duties without the permission from the incumbent NIS chief. Kim recently published his memoirs regarding the 2007 inter-Korean summit, but he reportedly did not get NIS permission.
In 2011, Kim faced an indictment for revealing state secrets in his contribution to a Japanese monthly. The indictment was suspended later.
As the controversy escalated, Kim reversed himself, saying that Roh and the former North Korean leader did not have any telephone talks.
"I just meant that there was a hotline through which the leaders of the two Koreas were able to exchange their views promptly. But they did not ever hold any direct talks over the phone," he said during a symposium hosted last Friday by the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation.
Park Jie-won, a lawmaker of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, called on Kim to show "restraint," saying that he would step in should Kim continue to make "unnecessary" remarks. Park served as the chief of staff for former President Kim Dae-jung.
"He (Kim) should have behaved as (former) NIS chief if he had really led the organisation," Kim said in his Twitter posting. "He should repeatedly exert restraint."
The former NIS chief's revelation about the inter-Korean hotline during the liberal Kim and Roh administrations highlighted the current lack of top-level communication.
With the former Lee Myung-bak government adopting a strictly reciprocal policy toward the North, bilateral relations chilled. The cross-border tensions further deteriorated as Pyongyang launched a set of deadly attacks including the sinking of the corvette Cheonan in 2010.
Since the Park administration was launched in early 2013, high-level exchanges have rarely occurred. The two sides are now seeking to arrange and institutionalize cross-border talks, but uncertainties for the talks have increased as Pyongyang is expected to launch provocations such as a long-range rocket launch this month.