South Korea's government and ruling party agreed Wednesday to handle a revised bill on the spy agency's operations during the ongoing parliamentary regular session.
The bill calls for stripping the National Intelligence Service of its right to investigate North Korean espionage cases and limiting its operations to collecting and analyzing overseas information, including data about North Korea.
The proposal is pending at the National Assembly amid partisan wrangling over when the agency's right to probe North Korean spies should be transferred to police.
National Intelligence Service logo (Yonhap)
After a closed-door policy consultation meeting among presidential, NIS and party officials, Rep. Kim Min-ki of the ruling Democratic Party told reporters that they agreed to make efforts for the swift passage of the bill. Kim sits on the parliamentary intelligence committee.
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party claimed that a three-year grace period should be granted before the spy agency's investigative authority is handed over to police.
"Making efforts for the swift passage of the proposal means that we will not keep in mind or consider applying such a grace period," Kim said.
Hong Young-pyo, the floor leader of the DP, Lee Seok-su, a senior NIS official and Cho Kuk, a senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, were among the participants in Wednesday's meeting.
During his budget speech on Nov. 1, President Moon Jae-in called for swift parliamentary passage of the bill to speed up the agency's reform.
The reform of the NIS was one of President Moon's election pledges and is intended to prevent the spy agency from meddling in domestic politics and make it focus on overseas operations.
"The NIS is working hard as part of the Moon administration's reform measures," Hong told reporters before the meeting.
"But it is hard to say that the NIS is fully in operation as the bill has yet to be passed due to opposition parties' objection," he added. "This proposal should be passed during the regular session for the sake of a new spy agency." (Yonhap)