For spy case, Libya asks $1b from Seoul: source

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For spy case, Libya asks $1b from Seoul: source

Libya has demanded $1 billion worth of civil engineering work from Korea in compensation for a recent dispute over a South Korean spy’s alleged espionage activities in the country, a government source told the JoongAng Ilbo.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry, however, denied the report, stressing the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue.

Ties between Seoul and Tripoli deteriorated rapidly in recent weeks after an intelligence agent at the Korean embassy in Libya was detained, questioned and deported in June. Following the deportation of the agent, the Economic Cooperation Bureau of Libya suspended its operations in Seoul, and its diplomats returned home on June 24.

“The Libyan authorities made the demands [for the construction] to the Korean delegation that recently visited the country to resolve the situation,” the official told the paper Tuesday. “Libya also said it will restrict Korean businesses in the country if its demands were not met.”

The delegation, comprised of officials from the National Intelligence Service, returned home over the weekend after negotiations with the Libyan authorities. The source said other demands were also made during the negotiations. “Libya wanted a list of contacts in the country whom the suspected South Korean spy had interacted with,” the official said.

Libya also asked Korea to correct negative depictions of it and its leader Muammar el-Qaddafi in local textbooks, the official said, and asked the government to stop Korean Christian missionary activities in the Muslim nation. The demands are seen as being out of the ordinary. “When a conflict arises over an espionage operation, it is the international norm for a deputy head of the intelligence agency to visit the disturbed country and express an apology,” the official said. “The Libyan’s requests for astronomical compensation and the spy’s list of contacts are unusual.”

Libyan media also confirmed that Tripoli had made demands on Seoul in return for resolving the espionage incident. Quoting Oea Weekly, the English-language Tripoli Times said Seoul has confessed in writing its espionage operations in Libya. The report also said there were two diplomats involved in the Korean espionage case - not one as Korean media alleged.

“An official source told Oea that Libya made other demands, along with a written apology and confession, and those demands are not to be revealed for the time being,” the report said. “The official also made it clear that Korean interests in Libya would be reviewed and certain measures are to be considered if the government of Korea did not fulfill the demands in the time frame specified by the Libyan side,” it reported.

The report also said Libyan intelligence authorities suspect that the Korean agents may have been a part of a larger spy network in the region. “The Libyan source said it is most likely that the Korean spies are working for other foreign entities, and both the espionage and Christian missionary activities violate Libyan law,” the report said.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry expressed concerns yesterday that media reports about Libya’s demands would worsen the diplomatic incident.

In a radio interview yesterday, Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said progress is being made. “Some media reports, however, are not true,” he said. “I am also concerned that reporting about such issues at this moment will hinder the efforts to resolve the situation.”

Stressing the government’s ongoing diplomacy, Yu asked for the nation’s patience over the crisis. A foreign ministry official also said Libyan media reports were inaccurate, claiming that only one diplomat was accused of espionage, not two.


By Lee Young-jong, Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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