TRC clears former HID officer of being a double-agent

Posted on : 2009-09-16 12:37 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Families seek justice for captured HID agents unjustly tried and executed for espionage
 former HID agent.
former HID agent.

“It has been so hard living without a father all this time. How could my poor father and my brothers and sisters ever be compensated for our lives?”

Sim Han-un found it impossible to continue speaking. The 59-year-old is the son of Sim Mun-gyu, a man who had served as an Headquarters Intelligence Detachment (HID) agent in a South Korean counter- intelligence military unit and was framed as a double agent at a court-martial, and executed at an Army prison.

In a report released Tuesday from its investigation of Sim’s case, the South Korean Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) wrote, “It has been confirmed that an innocent person was executed through the fabrication of a case by the HID.” The commission recommended to the government that necessary measures be taken, including an apology to Sim’s family and a review to rehabilitate his reputation.

What happened to Sim Mun-gyu’s life could be said as indicative of what has taken place in South Korea’s turbulent history as a nation under Japanese colonial rule to war and then national division. His home is Cheorwon, now located in Gangwon Province, which fell in North Korean territory before the armistice line was as a result of the Korean War.

Sim had a favorable view of South Korea, and he joined the South Korean Army in the 6th division reconnaissance corps for the 17th regiment in December 1950, when the tide was turned by the South Korean Army with the Incheon landing. He began his HID activity at the 6th division’s intelligence office.

“Before Liberation, my father voluntarily joined the Japanese army and was assigned to the Kwantung Army in Manchuria, and he ended up captured by the Soviet and Chinese armies and spending time as a prisoner-of-war,” explained Sim Han-un. “He was fluent in Chinese and was aware of the surrounding geography, and these were suitable for fulfilling intelligence duties,” he added.

Sim Mun-gyu was in unemployed in Seoul following the war’s end when he received a proposal from HID asking if he might like to work again. In Sept. 1955, he left behind his wife and three children and went to North Korea by way of the East Sea coast. “I heard that the Army coaxed him into it, telling him he would work as an officer when he came back,” Sim Han-un recalled.

Unfortunately, Sim Mun-gyu was caught by the North Korean army while carrying out his duties, and after going through one year and seven months of training as a spy against South Korea, he was assigned to “assassinate key figures” and sent back south. Sim, who had family in Seoul, turned himself in to HID as soon as he arrived back in South Korea, but military prosecutors at the time charged him with “surrendering under false pretenses.” In May of 1961, he was executed at Taegu Prison. “It seems that for senior military figures at the time, HID agents dispatched to North Korea who came back alive like Sim were nuisances who could not just be released back into society,” said an official with the TRC.

Sim’s children lived harsh lives after their father’s unjust death. Sim Han-un explained, “My mother took her own life just before my father was sent to North Korea, and the second eldest child died of disease at the age of five.” Sim Han-un himself was unable to graduate from middle school because of the family’s dire financial situation.

Following enactment of the Compensation for Persons Engaged in Special Military Missions Act, which was created to provide consolation for the past suffering of HID agents deployed to North Korea, Sim Han-un applied for benefits but was rejected. He said that he will request a court review of his father’s execution and is seeking damages from the state.

Please direct questions or comments to []

Most viewed articles