President Yoon Overhauls South Korean Spy Agency Leadership Amid Controversy

SEOUL – South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has accepted the resignations of National Intelligence Service (NIS) Director Kim Kyou-hyun and his two deputies, ushering in a significant leadership change at the country's primary intelligence organization. The shakeup follows a period of controversy surrounding personnel management within the agency.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the resignations of NIS Director Kim Kyou-hyun, First Deputy Director Kwon Chun-taek, and Second Deputy Director Kim Soo-youn were accepted without elaboration on the reasons for their departure or the president's decision. The statement highlighted Kim Kyou-hyun's contributions to rebuilding the NIS's reputation and fostering cooperation with intelligence agencies of allied countries.

President Yoon has appointed Hong Jang-won, a former diplomatic minister at South Korea's Embassy in London, as the acting NIS director and first deputy director. Hwang Won-jin, previously responsible for North Korean intelligence at the NIS, has been named the second deputy director. Both are described as experts in international and North Korean intelligence.

The decision, announced shortly after President Yoon's return from a trip to Britain and France, is perceived as a response to his dissatisfaction with recent controversies at the NIS, particularly in personnel affairs.

A new NIS director is yet to be named, with the appointment requiring a confirmation hearing at the National Assembly. An official from the president's office indicated the urgency of filling the role to avoid a prolonged leadership vacuum at the intelligence agency, promising to expedite the process.

Amid these changes, President Yoon seeks a leader capable of enforcing discipline and restoring order at the NIS, especially considering recent challenges under Kim Kyou-hyun's tenure. The focus of the NIS is expected to shift towards enhancing intelligence gathering and analysis regarding North Korea, aligning with South Korea's strengthened intelligence alliance with the United States.

Two retired Army generals, Kim Yong-hyun, current head of the presidential security service, and Lee Jong-sup, former defense minister, are among the top contenders for the NIS director position. It is noted that President Yoon is unlikely to choose a career diplomat to succeed Kim Kyou-hyun.

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