SEOUL, April 15 (Xinhua) -- South Korean President Park Geun- hye on Tuesday apologized for the country's spy agency's forgery of evidence, which was used to charge a former Seoul municipal government official with espionage. "Regrettably, wrong practices of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and holes in the incomplete management system were revealed. I feel sorry for this to cause concern to the people," Park said during a Cabinet meeting.
Her apology was made a day after prosecutors indicted three NIS officials for their alleged involvement in the evidence fabrication.
The prosecution's investigation team said Monday that fake documents were used to charge Yoo Woo-seong, the former Seoul municipal government official, with handing over personal information on more than 200 defectors from the Democratic People' s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to Pyongyang.
After a local court acquitted Yoo of espionage, prosecutors appealed the case and submitted Chinese immigration records on his visit to the DPRK. Some of the documents were found later to have been fabricated.
A deputy NIS chief offered to resign after the announcement and President Park accepted the resignation.
Park said the intelligence agency must make "bone-grinding" efforts not to repeat this again and turn over a new leaf, noting that if the agency loses trust from the people again with other incidents, it will have to be strongly held accountable.
It was Park's fourth public apology since her inauguration in February last year, indicating she was taking the case seriously as it can damage public sentiment on the government and the ruling Saenuri party ahead of the June 4 local elections.
The NIS was rattled by the alleged 2012 presidential election meddling, boosting negative sentiment toward the spy agency. Some intelligence agents were ordered by former NIS chief to post negative online comments against main opposition presidential candidate Moon Jae-in ahead of the 2012 presidential election, according to the two-month-long investigation results by prosecutors last June.
Park has ordered the NIS to reform itself, but opposition lawmakers claimed the"self-reform" will not change the wrong practices and incomplete structure of the spy agency. Opposition parties have called for the resignation of NIS chief Nam Jae-joon and special prosecutor's probe into the presidential election interference.
Earlier in the day, Nam also made a public apology for the evidence forgery case, saying the agency will conduct a"bone- grinding" reform to root out its wrong practices in the past and not to repeat this again.
Nam mentioned the"grave"situation on the Korean Peninsula, citing the DPRK's recent missile launches, threats of its fourth nuclear test and failure to detect suspected DPRK spy drones, but he failed to talk about whether he will resign for the evidence fabrication case.
The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy called for Nam to quit the post immediately, saying that he should not poison the spy agency's reputation anymore.
The ruling Saenuri Party urged the opposition party not to make a political issue of the case, saying that intelligence activity of the NIS should not be contracted under the"grave"situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Meanwhile, 14 South Korean civic groups, including People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, held a joint press conference in central Seoul, urging state agencies not to intervene in the upcoming June 4 local elections.
The fact that Nam was keeping his post raised possibility for state agencies to interfere with the local elections, the civic organization said, urging President Park to relieve Nam of his post.