[OUTLOOK]North’s pawn should get no mercy

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[OUTLOOK]North’s pawn should get no mercy

With the detention of Korean-born German sociologist Song Du-yul, the case now rests in the hands of the Justice Ministry. However, the significance and aftershock of this incident go beyond that of a simple violation of the National Security Act. This is a touchstone case to test the solidity of our security system.
The challenge to national security in peace time comes in the form of an intelligence war. In the case of South and North Korea, which have long been confronting each other in hostility, an intelligence war is often frantic and intense. Even while suffering a national bankruptcy that drove its people to the edge of starvation, North Korea does not hesitate to invest money in two categories: the idolization of Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong-il, and the intelligence service.
Investment in the intelligence service is of course heavily concentrated in its strategy to communize the South. For this, North Korea has poured an enormous amount of money into training intelligence agents and using them aggressively.
North Korea’s intelligence activities against the South are various, methodical and extremely obsessive and include the training and sending of numerous agents to the South, propaganda campaigns through civilian radio waves and the operation of North-South civilian exchange programs and cheerleaders.
Mr. Song might find it hard to acknowledge this, but it is clear that North Korean intelligence has been using the professor as an important asset in the intelligence game against the South.
There is such a category as an “unwitting agent” among intelligence agents, referring to those who are used for intelligence purposes regardless of will or consent. There is also a category called “agent of influence,” one who uses his or her social name or reputation to create a favorable environment and situation for the intelligence subject.
In Mr. Song’s case, it appears that he belongs to these categories. According to the media coverage of Mr. Song, his activities were mostly intentional. Should we accept his statement that he had committed them unknowingly, his activities still count as “unwitting espionage.”
The North Korean intelligence probably thinks highly of Mr. Song’s value as an agent of influence. His academic reputation and his theory of “internal approach” have played a big role in changing the views on North Korea in certain parts of our society.
Like our National Intelligence Service, the North Koreans must also be keeping a file on Song Du-yul. In that file, there are probably detailed records of Mr. Song’s activities, funds given to him and his plans. There must also be records of the debate within South Korean society over Mr. Song, and this debate will be closely followed.
They are probably hoping Mr. Song is granted legal space for his activities in the South. If that were to happen, Mr. Song’s case would become a successful act of espionage from North Korea’s point of view. Besides the symbolic meaning of a North Korean politburo member successfully entering South Korea without having to renounce his political beliefs, it would be evidence that Mr. Song’s influence, which is highly favorable to North Korea, has established a foothold deep in the South.
President Roh Moo-hyun described Mr. Song as a tragic intellectual born out of the division of Korea. The president insinuated that if we display tolerance to Mr. Song, we would be demonstrating our society’s maturity to the world.
However, this incident is not about the ideological tendencies of an intellectual. This is an incident involving espionage activities of an agent who worked for North Korea. Therefore, how we respond will tell us how true and strict we are to the principle of protecting our society from unseen threats.
The international realm respects a disciplined society that displays strong self-preservation instincts and abilities. To show negligence in this only invites contempt.
Robert Kim is a Korean-born ex-CIA employee who is serving more than 10 years in prison in the United States for passing on information to Korean contacts without permission, information that would have been shared between the allies anyway. Espionage is a charge to which the strictest standard is applied, and there is little room for tolerance anywhere in the world.
A nation’s security system is built one step at a time, with the accumulation of successful precedents. It is time to withhold our sympathies for Professor Song and wait for the impartial judgment of the judiciary. The conclusion of this incident should send a message to North Korea of our strong determination to preserve our security.

* The writer, a visiting professor at Ulsan University, was a former deputy director of the Agency for National Security Planning. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Lee Byeong-ho
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