Would-be Hwang killers get 10 years

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Would-be Hwang killers get 10 years

A Seoul court yesterday sentenced two North Korean spies to 10-year jail terms for attempting to assassinate a high-profile defector critical of the communist North and its top leader.

The two defendants, known only as Kim, 36, and Tong, 34, were arrested in April on charges of posing as refugees in a plot to kill Hwang Jang-yop, former secretary of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party and chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly.

The Seoul Central District Court said that confessions and statements from Kim and Tong regarding the motives for their fake defections, planned crimes, infiltration routes and personal careers are all convincing enough to convict them of violating the National Security Law.

“It is also acknowledged that the residence of Hwang is classified information and the figures contacted by Kim and Tong in China are members of North Korean or other anti-state organizations,” said the court.

The court also said that had the two men succeeded in settling here, it could have been a major threat to Hwang’s safety considering their military training.

Prosecutors had demanded a 15-year imprisonment for each of the defendants, who pleaded guilty to charges during the trial.

The court said it mitigated their jail terms, as the assassination attempts were not actually carried out and they cooperated in the investigation.

The two, both former North Korean military officers, arrived in Seoul last December disguised as defectors on orders of the North’s reconnaissance unit in charge of espionage operations against South Korea.

Hwang, 87, defected to South Korea in 1997 and has received repeated death threats for criticizing his former boss and pupil, Kim Jong-il. The location of his residence is not publicly known.

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