Taped conversation is played at treason trial

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Taped conversation is played at treason trial

“A war could break out at any moment, and I have received three orders,” says a voice on a tape that allegedly relates to a plot to overthrow the South Korean government.

The tape was part of evidence in the trial of Representative Lee Seok-ki of the Unified Progressive Party and three other party members charged with conspiring to subvert the government in the event that North Korea invades the South.

The recording was played during a hearing yesterday at the Suwon District Court.

The recording of Hong Soon-seok, one of the four defendants, was supposed to describe three orders that the group was supposed to carry out in case of war with the North. Hong was the vice chairman of the UPP’s Gyeonggi chapter and an alleged member of the Revolutionary Organization (RO), the leftist party’s underground group.

The revelation yesterday challenged claims by the defense that the RO was merely a private group with no links to North Korea and with no plans to overthrow the government.

The recording was allegedly a conversation among Hong, Han Dong-geun, another defendant and a former leader of the UPP Suwon chapter, and another person only identified by his surname Lee, who was a secret informant who made the tape.

A meeting allegedly took place in a restaurant in Suwon on March 13, eight days after North Korea announced it was unilaterally scrapping the armistice with the South that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

At the height of inter-Korean tensions early last year, the North also threatened to attack the United States and warned foreigners in the South to leave the country. The prosecution in the insurrection case says the RO was making preparations last spring to help subvert the South Korean government after the outbreak of war.

“There are two things I am going to address today,” Hong said in the conversation in the restaurant.

“We have our support groups in the country. In an emergency, we must organize them in a timely manner ... If we mobilize them to spark a protest just like the massive protests against mad cow disease [in 2008], it will damage the Park Geun-hye government,” he said.

“Some important facilities are installed in U.S. garrisons. Not just army bases but radar installations or electric facilities. We need to amass [information about] them.”

During a separate meeting among the same men on March 28 in a coffee shop in Suwon, Hong was recorded as saying they should study a statement issued by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at a North Korean Workers’ Party rally held last Jan. 29 through Feb. 1 in Pyongyang.

Prosecutors suspect that the UPP’s Lee submitted requests to the Defense Ministry for information about the U.S. military in Korea on orders from Pyongyang.

Of the 24 requests for military information, the lawmaker was granted 21. The Defense Ministry later said it had only handed information to Lee that was not confidential.

The three pieces of information that Lee was denied was information on joint Korea-U.S. military plans in the event of an attack by the North.

The defense team yesterday tried to rebut the prosecutors’ claim by saying the recordings contain no direct orders for any mission.

BY YOON HO-JIN AND KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]
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