N. Korean agent caught and arrested

Posted on : 2008-08-28 14:12 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
While posing as a defector, female spy obtained military information and participated in kidnapping of defectors
 a senior prosecutor
a senior prosecutor

A North Korean agent posing as a defector has been arrested on charges of handing over to North Korea information obtained after approaching South Korean military officers. Not only is this the first spy case involving someone posing as a North Korean defector, but attention is also focused on how she used sex to get information and on testimony that she tried to learn the whereabouts of high-ranking defector Hwang Jang-yop, the former Korea Workers Party secretary.

A joint investigative team composed of the Suwon District Prosecutors Office, Gyeonggi Province police, the National Intelligence Service’s Gyeonggi Province branch and the Defense Security Command said Wednesday that they had arrested the 34-year-old identified as Won, who entered South Korea in 2001 posing as a defector and is charged with approaching military officers to photograph U.S. and South Korean military installations in the Seoul metropolitan area. She is accused of turning the photos over to North Korea. Also arrested was a 26-year-old Army captain she was sleeping with by the name of Hwang on charges of failing to report Won despite knowing she was a spy, and Won’s 63-year-old stepfather, known as Kim, who, as a former high-ranking North Korean, is accused of contacting North Korean intelligence in China.

The joint investigation team said that between 1998 and 2001, Won, who had received spy training at a North Korean special forces base since she was a teenager, collaborated in the kidnapping to North Korea of about 100 North Korean defectors and seven South Korean businessmen from Chinese cities like Yanji and Hunchun. In October 2001, she married a South Korean man while posing as an ethnic Korean from China; after entering Korea, she reported to the NIS that she was a North Korean defector. Won testified that between 2002 and 2006, she visited China some 14 times and received orders to kill South Korean intelligence operatives working against the North, learn the location of the NIS and Hanawon, win-over South Korean military officers and ascertain the whereabouts of Hwang Jang-yop.

Investigators said that in order to carry out her mission, Won met military personnel, such as one Col. Kim, through a matchmaking service in 2005 and met troop information and education, or TI & E, personnel such as Capt. Hwang by giving anti-communist lectures at military bases around Seoul. From them, she obtained the locations of military bases and other information. Investigators said they had discovered signs that the email accounts written on officer name cards given to the North by Won’s stepfather Kim have been hacked from China. They said, however, that Won was unable to carry out her mission to assassinate two South Korean spies since, she said, she had never killed anyone, and that she had failed to obtain knowledge of Hwang Jang-yop’s whereabouts from defector groups. They have learned that the information handed to the North by Kim contained no important secrets.

Meanwhile, there are also questions as to why Won is being arrested only now, when authorities first caught on to her three years ago. Having begun a secret investigation of her in May 2005, police had already confirmed that she entered the North Korean consulate in Shenyang, met with North Korean intelligence operatives and exchanged money. Some are pointing out other incomprehensible aspects of this matter, such as why the authorities only watched her after she had been warned and barred from lecturing after saying during one lecture that North Korea’s nuclear program was for self-defense, and why someone working as an operative would even say such a thing.

Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]

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