North Korean ‘honeytrap’ spy arrested in South

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North Korean ‘honeytrap’ spy arrested in South

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A North Korean “honeytrap” spy was arrested during her attempt to infiltrate South Korea by posing as a defector, intelligence authorities told the JoongAng Ilbo Thursday.

The arrest marked the third known case of a female North Korean agent captured in the South after coming here by posing as a defector. The first case was reported in 2008 and the second in 2010.

According to sources, the National Intelligence Service confirmed that a 46-year-old North Korea defector who came to South Korea through Thailand at the end of last year was in fact an agent sent by Pyongyang.

The woman, known as Lee Gyeong-ae, was arrested earlier this month, sources said.

Her identity was revealed through intense interrogations when she arrived in the South.

According to sources, Lee was a spy trained by the National Security Agency of North Korea.

Known as the secret police force directly reporting to the highest leader of the North, the NSA is in charge of investigating all acts deemed crimes against the regime. It is also responsible for interrogating suspected spies against the country and overseas espionage operations.

According to sources, Lee told the South Korean authorities that she had escaped from the North and lived in China with a South Korean man. After he returned home, she decided to come to the South through a middleman who often arranges trips for defectors.

The authorities, however, discovered inconsistencies in her testimony and many of her accounts about North Korea were different from their intelligence. After interrogation, she confessed that she was an agent sent by the National Security Agency, the source said.

Shortly after her confession, the National Intelligence Service took her into custody and continued its investigation. Earlier this month, she was formally detained under the directive of the prosecution on charges of National Security Law violations.

Sources said Lee received her spy training at the National Security Agency in early 2000 and was dispatched to China. Her main role was money laundering of counterfeit U.S. dollar bills into Chinese yuan.

The National Intelligence Service suspected that the amount of money laundered through Lee totaled nearly $1 million.

Lee was also accused of luring a former North Korean man to China to investigate intelligence that he was linked to the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States. The man was a former North Korean who defected to the South and then moved to the United States.

The intelligence authorities also obtained information that Lee made an attempt to infiltrate South Korea by posing as a defector under the orders of the upper chain of command in China. The authorities are focusing the investigation on her missions in the South.

The two honeytrap spies arrested in 2008 and 2010 were also dispatched by the National Security Agency. Won Jeong-hwa, who came to the South by posing as a defector, was arrested in 2008 on espionage allegations. She was later convicted on charges of obtaining military information by having relationships with South Korean officers. She is currently serving a five-year prison term.

Kim Mi-hwa, another agent from the National Security Agency who also came to the South posing as a defector, was arrested in 2010 on charges of obtaining classified documents about the Seoul subway by having a relationship with a former Seoul Metro official.



By Park Jin-seok, Chae Yoon-kyung [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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