Recent beef between top South Korean officials led to one Democrat lawmaker asserting that there’s a spy among them.
The beef started when Kim Han-kyu, a Democrat lawmaker, said that President Yoon Suk-yeol’s “policies are all over the place and are being decided willy-nilly,” according to The Hankyoreh, a South Korean newspaper.
Suk-yeol’s chief of staff, Kim Dae-ki, fired back by crying foul.
“A decision isn’t necessarily slapdash just because it wasn’t deliberated by the party and the government. Administrative districts aren’t mandated in the Constitution, nor are they handed down from heaven. The [People Power Party’s] policy bureau is capable of developing policy, which is why the expression ‘slapdash’ is incorrect,” Kim Dae-ki said.
It’s at this point that Kim Byung-joo, another Democrat lawmaker, brought up old reporting from the U.S. media about how the United States was spying on senior South Korean security officials.
“Somebody here is a spy. Work should be done to ferret out that spy. If major state policies were passed to another country by human sources, that’s espionage,” Byung-joo said.
“Somebody here is a spy,” lawmaker Kim Byung-joo said, referring to the staff at the presidential office, before adding that “work should be done to ferret out that spy.”https://t.co/06OPkQ7BQ9
— The Hankyoreh (@TheHankyoreh) November 8, 2023
The remarks triggered “a quarrel” between members of Suk-yeol’s conservative People Power Party and members of the liberal Democratic Party of Korea.
In response, Cho Tae-yong, Korea’s national security advisor, said, “Accusing someone [of being a spy] would be deeply insulting, and leveling that accusation against a member of the president’s secretariat or national security office would be an even bigger issue.”
“There’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed,” Kim Sung-won, the PPP’s ranking member on the Steering Committee, added.
All this comes seven months after the Times published details from a leaked U.S. military memo describing discussions that occurred inside South Korea’s presidential office and concerned whether or not to offer weapons to Ukraine.
“When reports emerged late last year that South Korea had agreed to sell artillery shells to help the United States replenish its stockpiles, it insisted that their ‘end user’ should be the U.S. military. But internally, top aides to President Yoon Suk Yeol were worried that their American ally would divert them to Ukraine,” the Times’ report read.
“Mr. Yoon’s secretary for foreign affairs, Yi Mun-hui, told his boss, National Security Adviser Kim Sung-han, that the government ‘was mired in concerns that the U.S. would not be the end user if South Korea were to comply with a U.S. request for ammunition,’ according to a batch of secret Pentagon documents leaked through social media,” it continued.
Here’s the key line from the report: “The secret report was based on signals intelligence, which meant that the United States has been spying on one of its major allies in Asia.”
Following the Times’ bombshell reporting, members of the Democratic Party of Korea held a new conference during which they denounced the U.S. for spying on their president.
“They said the revelations included in the leaked documents may be ‘just the tip of the iceberg,’ and strongly urged Washington to launch an investigation and ensure that similar acts did not happen again,” the Times noted.
“This is a clear violation of our sovereignty by the United States and a super-scale security breach on the South Korean part,” they said in a statement.
It is significant that the US does not trust its partners:
The Biden administration was spying on its allies in Seoul to determine their stance on arming Ukraine.
South Korea will discuss a leak of classified military documents with the US….
— Richard (@ricwe123) April 9, 2023
As for the leaked U.S. military documents, they showed how South Korea’s government was torn between pressure from America to help Ukraine and its own official policy of not providing weapons to countries at war.
“Yi stressed that South Korea was not prepared to have a call between the heads of state without having a clear position on the issue, adding that South Korea could not violate its policy against supplying lethal aid, so officially changing the policy would be the only option,” the documents reportedly read.
Yi also said that the president’s secretary for national defense, Im Ki-hun, had promised to make a final decision by March 2nd.
“But their boss, Mr. Kim, was worried that if the announcement of [the South Korean president’s then-upcoming visit to Washington) coincided with an announcement of South Korea changing its stance on providing lethal aid to Ukraine, ‘the public would think the two had been done as a trade,'” the Times noted.
“Instead, according to the document, Mr. Kim ‘suggested the possibility’ of selling 330,000 rounds of 155-millimeter artillery shells to Poland because ‘getting the ammunition to Ukraine quickly was the ultimate goal of the United States,'” according to the Times.