By: Jun Ji-hye

Kim Man-bok, a former director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) who was one of the closest aides to the late President Roh Moo-hyun, has joined the ruling Saenuri Party, the party said Thursday.

His joining of the conservative party triggered mixed reactions from liberals and conservatives.

Kim served as NIS director during the liberal Roh administration; and the party has filed several complaints against him over the past years.

Saenuri lawmaker Kim Yong-tae told reporters that Kim applied for a party membership by fax three months ago, and the party accepted it.

Rumors are circulating that the former spy chief is attempting to run for a parliamentary seat in his hometown, Gijang-gun in Busan.

Criticism is arising even from the party about whether it was a proper decision to approve Kim’s membership as he played a core role in the Roh government’s inter-Korean policy, which the Saenuri Party fiercely criticized.

The party filed a complaint against Kim with the prosecution in 2008 for his suspected leak of memos from the 2007 inter-Korean talks.

An earlier complaint was filed in 2007 for the former NIS director’s alleged check of personal information of relatives of the party’s then presidential candidate, Lee Myung-bak, who became president in 2008.

Officials said the party leadership belatedly learned of Kim’s joining.

Chairman Rep. Kim Moo-sung was quoted as saying by spokesman Rep. Kim Young-woo: “The Saenuri Party is open not closed. The joining of Kim, who served as NIS director in the Roh government, has the implication that the there is hope in this party. There is no reason to reject his application.”