No joy for eloping Army spy on appeal

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No joy for eloping Army spy on appeal

The Seoul High Court refused to overturn a guilty verdict against a former army officer who was charged with spying for North Korea after he was seduced by a female agent from Pyongyang operating in China. The court on Friday reaffirmed the original ruling against the 34-year-old former noncommissioned officer and upheld his sentence of four years in prison.

It said the former officer had leaked classified military information while he was staying in the South and tried to persuade serving military officers to join his cause.

Kim retired as a sergeant first class in December 2008 after spending eight years in the Army. He subsequently landed a job at a utility firm in Yeoncheon County, Gyeonggi, by drawing on his experience as a signal corpsman, but was struggling financially and experiencing marital problems, the judge said.

Frustrated with his marriage, Kim sought solace online by looking for a mistress on video chatting sites. He soon came into contact with a woman surnamed Lee living in Shenyang, in the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning. Shenyang is close to the Sino-North Korean border.

While details on the woman’s identity remain shrouded in mystery, the court said she is presumed to be an agent working under the auspices of the North.

When Kim informed Lee of his history as a former military officer, she persuaded him to go to China under the pretense that they would both defect to the North. She said he would be welcomed with open arms, presumably in exchange for supplying coveted information about the South’s military.

“You will be welcome in Pyongyang because you’re a former military officer,” Lee sad, according to court records. “We can live comfortably if you bring just 3 million won [$2,664].”

Kim sold his car, made a sizeable bank withdrawal and flew to meet Lee in Shenyang, where they lived as a couple for several months before crossing the Tumen River into the North in July 2009. But Kim was quickly brought back down to earth as he was subjected to several weeks of intensive investigation by North Korean authorities, during which he leaked the classified material. He was later sent back to the South in a failed bid to recruit more spies and defectors from the ranks of incumbent military officers, with whom he was still in contact.

By Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr ]
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