Spy for North sold drugs to fund ministry

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Spy for North sold drugs to fund ministry

The spy arrested in April for trying to kidnap North Korean defectors in China was doing double duty, smuggling methamphetamine into the South in order to raise operational funds for North Korea’s Ministry of People’s Security, according to prosecutors here.

“Until now, we hadn’t been able to confirm reports by North Korean defectors here that the North was sending spies selling drugs,” Oh Se-in, a prosecutor at the Seoul prosecutors’ office, said yesterday. “This is the first time that evidence has surfaced that the security ministry of North Korea is directly involved in producing and selling drugs.”

Prosecutors said the spy, a 55-year-old South Korean surnamed Kim, had been ordered by the North Korean ministry to find buyers for 50 to 100 kilograms (110.2 to 220.5 pounds) of methamphetamine, with a street value ranging between $400,000 and $1.5 million. Thirty percent of the money was to go to North Korea’s ruling Workers Party, while the rest was to be used as operational funds for the People’s Security Ministry.

Kim allegedly tried to sell the highly addictive stimulant to South Korean, Japanese and Chinese drug dealers in China, but the amount was too large to sell at one time.

Nah, 35, who is serving a jail term for trying to buy drugs from Kim, told prosecutors that “the North Korean drugs Kim was selling were top-quality and had an immediate effect.”

Kim was arrested last month for allegedly hunting down North Korean defectors in China and forcibly sending them back to North Korea, under the instruction of a female North Korean agent, Kim Seong-bok. He escaped to South Korea from China after his cohort’s arrest, but was arrested by the National Intelligence Service in Incheon International Airport.

Prosecutors said Kim had been living in China illegally since 1999, when he fled South Korea after serving time in jail for doing drugs. It was there he met the North Korean woman and was recruited as a spy for the North.

The North’s Security Ministry ordered Kim to kidnap North Korean defectors in China and bring them back to North Korea while he gathered information about South Korean intelligence officials dispatched to China.

By Cho Jae-eun, Lee Chul-jae [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]
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