Consul general grilled on agent, defector case

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Consul general grilled on agent, defector case

The prosecution questioned a top Korean diplomat in China over allegations that a South Korean secret agent manipulated the official immigration records of a Korean-Chinese involved in an espionage case.

Cho Baek-sang, the Korean consul general in Shenyang, was summoned Saturday to marathon questioning by prosecutors on whether a spy working at the Korean consulate forged the entry and exit records of a North Korean-Chinese named Yu Wu-seong.

Yu, 34, was born in North Korea and grew up there, but he has Chinese citizenship because his family lived in China before. When he defected to South Korea by himself in 2004, he concealed his Chinese citizenship and was officially recognized as a defector from North Korea.

He graduated from Yonsei University with a bachelor’s degree in Chinese, and then got a job as a contract worker with the Seoul city government. He was profiled in the local media and described as an example of a successful North Korean defector in the South.

In 2012, he brought his younger sister, who was living in China, to South Korea. She went through questioning by the National Intelligence Service, the nation’s top spy agency.

According to the NIS, the sister said her brother was a spy for North Korea and he reported personal information about North Korean defectors in South Korea on three occasions between 2007 and 2012.

In January 2013, the prosecution indicted Yu for spying for the Communist state, a violation of the National Security Law.

At Yu’s first trial, the prosecution lost because it did not prove Yu visited North Korea for espionage.

So it asked the NIS for cooperation and an agent working at the Korean Consulate General in Shenyang offered the entry and exit records of Yu from China to North Korea.

But the Chinese Embassy in Seoul officially said on Feb. 13 that the documents were forged, putting the credibility of the NIS at the center of the controversy.

The Korean consul general, Cho, attended a hearing at the National Assembly on Friday before he was questioned by the prosecution on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

When asked by Hong Ik-pyo, a Democratic Party lawmaker, if the NIS agent working with him in Shenyang received the entry records from Chinese authorities officially, Cho said, “No, he didn’t.”

“He just received the three documents obtained by the relevant intelligence organization [the NIS], and the agent just translated the Chinese original documents [into Korean] and notarized them by himself,” Cho said. “So the documents are personal records [confirmed] by him.”

However, Cho changed his story a little later, saying the documents were obtained by the prosecution, not by the NIS, and the agent just translated them into Korean.

The prosecutors told reporters they will investigate who obtained the documents initially and who produced them. The agent at the consulate is also expected to be summoned for questioning soon.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]



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