중앙데일리

Court agrees to detain 5 as spy inquiry continues

Oct 29,2006

Democratic Labor Party Chairman Moon Sung-hyun, right, bound for North Korea with a party delegation today, said the arrests of former and current party officials in the widening espionage scandal were irrelevant to his visit. [NEWSIS]

Prosecutors and intelligence officials continued over the weekend to describe details of an espionage investigation allegedly involving a Korean-American entrepreneur and an official of the left-wing Democratic Labor Party.
Investigators said Jang Min-ho, 44, the owner of an information technology company in Seoul, had set up an espionage network here under the direction of North Korean intelligence operatives in China. Mr. Jang, now in custody along with four other suspects, was accused of having spied for North Korea for over a decade.
The Seoul Central District Public Prosecutors Office and the National Intelligence Service said Mr. Jang had joined the U.S. military in 1989 when he was a permanent resident of the United States and served at Yongsan Garrison, the headquarters base of U.S. Forces Korea, for four years. He obtained U.S. citizenship in 1993. They accused him of having paid his first visit to North Korea in 1989, just before joining the U.S. Army. He allegedly traveled there again in 1993, joining the North Korean Workers Party that year.
Mr. Jang is suspected of having operated as an undercover agent for Pyongyang since then, the prosecution and intelligence service sources said. In 1997, he was said to have organized a group of former student activists targeted at gathering information from members of political parties and civic groups.
The Seoul Central District Court found the prosecutors’ case compelling enough to issue detention warrants for the five. The latest, against Choi Gi-young, the deputy secretary general of the Democratic Labor Party, and Lee Jin-gang, a 1980s student activist, were issued yesterday.
At the warrant hearings, all five suspects said they had never heard of Ilsimhoe, the group Mr. Jang allegedly founded.
They also denied having met North Korean agents in China or providing sensitive information to North Korea. They said they were in no position to have access to any information that could threaten South Korea’s security.
The prosecution argued otherwise. It said yesterday that Mr. Jang had attempted to manipulate the Democratic Labor Party’s reaction to the North’s nuclear test through Mr. Choi, the party’s deputy leader.
Mr. Choi drew up a paper detailing the party’s position on the test and its plans to deal with the nuclear crisis, prosecutors said, and gave it to another suspect. It went thence to Mr. Jang and on to North Korea, the officials charged.
The document also reportedly described plans for the party’s leadership visit to North Korea and its position on North Korea sanctions and the six-party nuclear negotiations, according to prosecutors.
The Democratic Labor Party’s delegation, led by Moon Sung-hyun, the party’s leader, leaves for Pyongyang today. Mr. Moon said he would warn North Korean officials not to conduct another nuclear test.
But he added, “After returning from the North, I will also send a strong message to the United States that it is fundamentally responsible for the nuclear crisis. If necessary, I am willing to form a delegation to go to Washington.”
At a press conference, Mr. Moon complained about the detention of some of his party’s members. “It was an unforeseen development and it is not directly related to the visit to the North,” Mr. Moon said. “Nothing has been clearly revealed, and I think the National Intelligence Service probably created this scandal.”
The delegation will return to Seoul on Saturday. Mr. Jang also allegedly asked Mr. Choi to intervene in the Seoul election for mayor last May to stop the Grand National Party candidate from winning, the prosecution said. He wanted the left-wing party to throw its weight behind the Uri candidate to prevent a liberal split. Even if the prosecution was correct, the plan came to naught and would have been ineffectual even had it materialized. The Democratic Labor candidate won only 3 percent of the vote; Uri’s candidate took 27 percent, but Oh Se-hoon, the conservative contender, more than doubled those two candidates’ combined tally.
Mr. Jang was also accused of asking Mr. Choi for political information such as the reason for the rejection by the National Assembly of a bid to oust the defense minister, Yoon Kwang-ung, in June 2005. Mr. Jang also allegedly asked the party leader to recruit environmental activists to increase anti-U.S. sentiment here.
“I have long been skeptical about whether this kind of North Korean strategy works in the South Korean society of today,” a prosecutor said. “But we are finding more and more evidence in material we have seized.”
Yesterday, prosecutors said another of the suspects in custody had probably joined the Workers Party. Lee Jin-gang, a graduate of Korea University and a former student activist, once worked for Mr. Jang’s company.


by Kim Jong-moon, Ser Myo-ja


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