Korean Government Criticized for Trilateral Intelligence Sharing Pact

D-Bo , Dec. 31, 2014, 10:13 a.m.

The Defense Ministry has come under fire again for keeping the public in the dark and signing an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan behind the scenes. The ministry announced on Dec. 26 the impending signing of the trilateral pact between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo and said the agreement would go into effect after it is inked on Monday. 

But it was belatedly revealed that Washington had already signed the trilateral pact on Dec. 23, and Seoul and Tokyo on Dec. 26.  The Defense Ministry then claimed that a Pentagon official visited Seoul and Tokyo with the completed agreement to obtain signatures, and the vice defense minister, who would be the last one to sign the agreement, was scheduled to do it on Monday.

If that excuse is true, it is still unclear why the ministry did not admit this from the beginning. Also, it remains a mystery why the ministry refused to reveal to reporters the full text of an agreement that had already been signed during the press conference on Dec. 26 claiming that "the contents may change by Dec. 29." 

And why did the ministry official in charge of handling the pact tell the lie even as Japan was in the process of signing it? Did the ministry think no other press reports anywhere else in the world would pick up on the matter?

Despite all that, the government continues to remain secretive about the deal. The ministry announced the impending pact only after it was reported by Japanese media, leaving the public completely in the dark for three days after the agreement was signed. Nor did it report the deal to the National Assembly until Monday. 

If the Japanese media had not reported on the pact, there are suspicions that the government would have tried to keep it completely under wraps. That would not be unusual, since the Park Geun-hye administration seems to find it terribly difficult to understand the democratic principle of transparency.

Two years ago, the government already attempted to forge an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan but scrapped the plan due to strong public opposition here. The latest deal is not a treaty that requires National Assembly approval but merely an inter-ministerial agreement that becomes effective the moment the defense ministers of the three countries ink it. This is naturally being perceived as an attempt to avoid controversy. But instead the government has made things worse. 

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