2 caught leaking GPS tech to North

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2 caught leaking GPS tech to North

The prosecution said it has arrested two men, including a communist prisoner released on parole, over their suspected attempts to hand over GPS jamming technology to North Korea.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said Wednesday that two men were in custody as part of an investigation into alleged National Security Law violations.

A 74-year-old man who operates a trading company and a 56-year-old Korean resident of New Zealand were arrested, the prosecution said.

According to prosecutors, the 74-year-old trader, identified as Lee, and his accomplice, identified as Kim, met with a suspected North Korean agent in Dandong, China, in last July. They were accused of receiving an order from the agent to gather South Korea’s advanced defense technology and report to the North, the prosecution said.

Following the order, they obtained GPS jamming technology from a South Korean defense firm via e-mail, the prosecution said. The technology, designed to use jamming signals to disrupt GPS navigation systems, is capable of disarming precision-guided weapons such as cruise missiles.

South Korean law forbids the sale of technology to an enemy state, including North Korea.

The prosecution said it will investigate if they actually succeeded in handing over the technology to the North.

The investigation will also look into a possible link with the recent North Korean operation of jamming the South’s GPS signals. For 16 days last month, the North’s operation disturbed the operations of 670 airliners and 110 vessels at sea.

The prosecutors also identified Lee, the 74-year-old trader, as a steadfast communist prisoner released on parole. He was convicted of espionage for North Korea in 1972 and sentenced to serve a life prison term. In 1990, he was released on parole and started a trading business with North Korea in 1994.

Diehard communist prisoners have served prison terms longer than seven years for violating the National Security Law. They were often North Korean prisoners of war and captured spies. In 1993, Lee In-mo, one of the communist prisoners, was sent back to the North and the South Korean government scrapped the system of forcing the communist prisoners’ conversion.

In September 2000, 63 unconverted prisoners were repatriated to the North.

Kim is also a trader with North Korea. He moved to New Zealand in 2000 and began a business with the communist country in 2003.

The prosecution also said it is looking into another espionage case. It said a group unrelated to Lee and Kim made an attempt to obtain advanced antenna technology, a core system used for multiple-stage rockets.

The technology could improve the accuracy of the North’s long-range ballistic missiles and a 2009 resolution approved by the United Nations Security Council bans the sale of such a program to the North.

South Korean authorities also suspect that other confidential military and defense industry technology such as information on stealth aircraft coating, radar jamming devices and helicopter simulators for maritime operations were leaked to the North.

By Ser Myo-ja, Lee Yu-jeong [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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