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North orders terror strikes on South Koreans

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July 27,2016
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered terror attacks against South Koreans living overseas, a high-ranking official in Seoul said Tuesday, adding that his intelligence organizations are dispatching agents to China and Southeast Asian countries.

Kim was said to have ordered the terrorist attacks in retaliation for the defection en masse of a group of North Korean restaurant workers to the South earlier this year. He ordered agents who specialize in such acts of terror to Shenyang and Dandong in China’s northeastern Liaoning Province, as well as Southeast Asian countries that have maintained diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, such as Laos and Cambodia, which are also key routes for North Koreans to defect through, according to this official.

In a rare move, the South Korean Ministry of Unification in early April announced that 13 North Korean employees of the Ryugyong restaurant in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, defected to South Korea to escape the regime’s control over their lives. The defectors, which included a dozen young female workers and their male manager, were said to have reached Seoul after flying to a third country in Southeast Asia, where they took a plane bound for South Korea.

According to a source knowledgeable on Pyongyang affairs, the North Korean agencies that were mobilized for potential terrorist attacks on South Koreans include its General Bureau of Reconnaissance’s department of overseas intelligence, the State Security Department and the cultural exchange department of the Unification Front Department.

The department of overseas intelligence in the North’s General Bureau of Reconnaissance has its origins in Room 35, the intelligence department behind the kidnapping of prolific South Korean director Shin Sang-ok and his wife Choi Eun-hee in 1978, among other instances.

The precursor to the cultural exchange department of the Unification Front Department, which handles relations with Seoul, was Pyongyang’s espionage organization Bureau 225 before its renaming one year ago.

A government official who requested anonymity said, “While it is within the Unification Front Department, this is an independent organ that directly reports to Kim Jong-un. This cultural exchange department is showing activity after Kim issued terrorism orders to his intelligence agencies.”

The agents move in teams of up to four people, according to the source.

The agents are focusing on areas of contact between China and North Korea, and targeting defectors and those who aid them including religious and civic organizations. The agents are also planning terrorist attacks on South Korean residents, students and tourists in Southeast Asia and China, according to the source.

The South Korean government has called for its people to pay special attention to their safety.

BY CHUN SU-JIN, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]


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