Spying for the North to see his mom

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Spying for the North to see his mom

A 63-year-old man has been arrested in Seoul as a North Korean spy - for the second time in four decades.

According to Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, a man surnamed Han was arrested on July 2. In 1969, he was arrested for spying, too, confessed and later defected. For forty years, he lived a prosperous life as a South Korean - until his loyalties shifted back to his home country. And the mother he hadn’t seen in decades.

Han’s tangled tale began in North Hamgyong Province, North Korea, where he was born in 1947. At the age of 18, he was recruited to be an agent and received military training for three years and eight months. On the night of July 20, 1969, he and a colleague named Cho washed up on the shore of Gochang Village, North Jeolla, and traveled to Seoul four days later. Once there, someone discovered pistols in the men’s bags and reported them to the police.

After a chase, the two agents were arrested on July 27 near Dodong, which is current day Huam-dong and Namyeong-dong, in Seoul.

Under interrogation, Han confessed that his mission was to disrupt South Korea’s politics by joining protests against President Park Chung Hee’s constitutional amendment during his third presidential campaign.

Han decided to defect to the South and helped security agencies arrest other Northern spies. After a year, Han was given his freedom.

Han was hired by a major company in Korea and got married. He invested in real estate and became affluent. Life seemed perfect for Han in South Korea.

And yet, he hadn’t seen his mother since he was 18 and missed her. In the 1990s, he traveled to Yanbian, China, where separated Korean families secretly met. The State Security Department of North Korea won him over in 1996 with a deal that let him see his family in return for spying. He went to North Korea four times to meet family, and received orders from the department from 1996 to 2007, when his mother died.

According to prosecutors, Han’s missions included locating the defector Hwang Jang-yop - former secretary of the Workers’ Party in North Korea - reporting recent moves of the Association of North Korean Defectors, and measuring the strength of the National Intelligence Service’s defector investigations.

Han sent the information he gained to North Korean intelligence agencies by coded e-mails. The National Intelligence Service detected Han’s operations and arrested him, prosecutors said.

“Han worked as a spy in order to meet his family in North Korea,” an official from the prosecution said.


By Lee Chul-jae [enational@joongang.co.kr]

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