SEOUL — South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) has apologized after its agents were found to have provided forged Chinese documents that were used to prosecute an alleged North Korean spy. President Park Geun-hye expressed regret at the scandal, which has further tarnished the NIS' image, and demanded an overhaul of the agency.
The head of South Korea's intelligence service, Nam Jae-joon, on Tuesday issued a rare public apology over a North Korea spy scandal.
Public prosecutors said National Intelligence Service agents forged Chinese immigration records as evidence in an espionage case against Yoo Woo-seong, a North Korean dissident.
South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reports the main opposition party in South Korea has demanded President Park Geun-hye fire Nam because of the case.
A deputy chief of the NIS resigned late Monday after an investigation confirmed the scandal. Three more intelligence agents, including one at the South Korean consulate in Shenyang, China, and an ethnic Chinese Korean are facing charges.
But prosecutors Monday concluded the forgery was not orchestrated by NIS leaders and chief Nam is not currently facing any disciplinary action. He apologized to the people for causing concern.
He said the NIS will try to develop scientific, investigative techniques and strengthen the agency’s capabilities of probing pro-North Korean cases. He said this is the major task of the NIS through a strong restructuring.
It was not immediately clear if the case against the North Korean dissident Yoo would be dismissed over the false evidence.
Yoo escaped to the South in 2004 and worked for the Seoul city government. But prosecutors allege he was secretly working for Pyongyang.
He was suspected of collecting and turning over information on more than 200 fellow dissidents to North Korea in trips through China.
Yoo denies the charges and was acquitted by a lower court. But an appeal by prosecutors included the new evidence of Chinese immigration records.
Chinese officials raised suspicions about the credibility of the documents in February, leading to the investigation.
The NIS scandal is the latest in a series to hit the spy agency.
Some of its agents were charged with trying to influence public opinion online for the 2012 presidential election.
Former NIS chief Won Sei-hoon is also facing charges of election meddling and in January was sentenced to two years in prison for graft.
South Korea's President Park Geun-hye Tuesday demanded an overhaul of the spy agency.
She said she feels sorry for causing concern for the people as wrong practices of the NIS and inexhaustible holes in its management system have been regrettably revealed. The NIS must take excruciating efforts to overhaul itself, she said, to make sure such incidents will not happen again. She said she will take strong measures if any case again occurs that loses people’s trust.
North Korea had no immediate comment on the spying scandal but usually denies it engages in espionage.
South Korea's Ministry of Defense on Friday said three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, found crashed in the country in recent weeks were almost certainly from North Korea.
Pyongyang dismissed the accusation and offered to send officials for a joint investigation of the drones.
The Defense Ministry dismissed the offer, calling it a psychological tactic unworthy of consideration.
VOA Seoul Bureau Producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report.