Seoul’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) is sounding the alarm over the threat of North Korea as the Blue House and ruling Saenuri Party “desperately” urge the passage of an anti-cyber terrorism bill.
The Blue House pressed the National Assembly on Tuesday morning to pass the bill over the opposition of the Minjoo Party, emphasizing the “serious security situation.”
“As threats from North Korea’s additional provocations continue, we look forward to the passage of the anti-cyber terrorism bill,” spokesperson Jeong Yeon-gook from the Blue House told journalists.
On the same day, the NIS organized an emergency countermeasures meeting with government organizations including the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and the Ministry of Defense. The NIS zeroed in on Pyongyang’s involvement.
“It is confirmed that North Korea recently attacked … core government officials’ smartphones and took text and voice phone call records,” the NIS stated via a press release.
“We’ve detected the circumstance in which North Korea is preparing large-scale cyber terror,” it said, asserting the necessity of the anti-cyber terrorism law for an effective reaction for sectors such as electricity, transportation, communication, finance and national security.
Having carried out a world-record-length filibuster in an – ultimately unsuccessful – effort to prevent the passage of the Saenuri-backed anti-terrorism bill last week, the main opposition Minjoo Party criticized the Park administration for attempting to use security instability ahead of the upcoming general election via a documentary press briefing on the same day.
“The most problematic point of the bill is installing facilities in communication companies, allowing the NIS access to the information,” Shin Kyung-min, an opposition party lawmaker on the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee, told NK News.
“For the comprehensive, systematic prevention and reaction, establish a ‘national cyber safety center’ under the chief of the NIS,” the bill proposed by Saenuri lawmaker Seo Sang-ki reads.
Regarding the risk of terrorism from North Korea and the NIS’s report about the Islamic State’s threat against 20 South Korean citizens, Shin said he “has never been briefed by the NIS,” even though he is a ranking member of the Intelligence Committee.
“There have been numerous cyber attacks allegedly committed by North Korea, which are always vague,” Shin said. “If the signals are from China, whether North Korea ordered the attacks has never been clearly proved.”
The opposition party denied this, much as it did then, calling such a designation outside of legal regulations.
“The bill is currently under the agenda-coordinating process, so it should be considered for 60 days, by the end of May,” Shin said.
The anti-terrorism law, which passed the National Assembly on March 3, has incapacitated protections on financial transactions and wiretapping, which were regulated by the Protection of Communications Secrets Act.
South Koreans recently have been swapping to the messenger app Telegram due to security worries. The Germany based app recorded 80,000 downloads in one day following the law’s passage.
The NIS, which has been criticized for fabricating espionage cases, has considerable leeway over the intelligence sector.
Daniel Pinkston, lecturer at Troy University, said that the powers invested in the intelligence agency are “centralized.”
“The NIS and the NIS director are extremely powerful,” he told NK News. “South Korea needs to have a serious debate about this, but unfortunately, intelligence has been so politicized that it still seems impossible.”
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Featured Image: Cyber attacks in real time by byzantiumbooks on 2015-01-17 12:27:31