N. Korean held for spying on trains

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N. Korean held for spying on trains

A female North Korean spy posing as a defector has been arrested in Seoul after collecting potentially sensitive information from Koreans she befriended in online chats, authorities here said yesterday.

The National Intelligence Service and the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said they have detained a female agent surnamed Kim. The 36-year-old belonged to the State Security Department in North Korea, the South Korean authorities said. Kim slipped into South Korea in September of last year after approaching the South Korean Embassy in Laos, posing as a defector.

A South Korean man named Oh was also arrested after giving information on Seoul’s subway networks to Kim, his lover, even though he knew she was a spy. The 52-year-old Oh was working for Seoul Metro, which manages four of Seoul’s nine subway lines.

According to the authorities, Kim entered China in February 2006 disguised as an ethnic Korean and got a job as a bookkeeper at a Chinese hotel. Kim later operated a travel agency in China.

From China, Kim began chatting online with a South Korean college student, two South Korean travel agents, and Oh.

The authorities here said Kim obtained a list of major South Korean universities and another list of South Korean tourists, including police officers and key civil servants, and gave them to North Korea’s intelligence officers. Investigators said Oh and Kim became romantically involved in May 2006.

Oh found out Kim was a spy in June 2007, but continued to supply her with information including contact information for officials working at Seoul Metro’s main command and control center and at the control center for subway line No. 1, which cuts through the heart of the Korean capital. Oh also allowed Kim to access reports filed by late-shift workers.

Authorities here feared that such information could be used to plan terrorist attacks on the Seoul subway.

By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]
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