NIS agent arrested, linked to forgeries

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NIS agent arrested, linked to forgeries

The prosecution arrested a National Intelligence Service agent allegedly involved in the fabrication of key evidence in a case to charge a Korean-Chinese man who professed to be a North Korean defector with espionage.

The agent, surnamed Kim, who worked in China to collect intelligence regarding North Korean affairs, was a so-called black agent, disguising his identity for espionage.

An outsourced broker, who was questioned in the case on Thursday and claimed to have worked with the agent, said he referred to the man simply as “Boss Kim.”

On Saturday, prosecutors arrested Kim with a temporary warrant and brought him in for questioning, during which they tried to determine whether he was involved in fabricating three documents used by the prosecution and submitted to the appeals court regarding the entry and exit records of Yu Wu-seong, the Korean-Chinese man suspected of spying for North Korea.

Yu, born in North Korea, holds Chinese citizenship but came to South Korea in 2004 under the guise of being a North Korean defector. He is suspected of leaking information on 200 North Korean defectors living in Seoul to the regime. He was acquitted of those charges in the initial trial, and an appeal suit by prosecutors is ongoing.

The testimony of the NIS agent is crucial for the prosecution to figure out the primary authority in the fabrication scandal in the nation’s top spy agency. Kim, a fourth-level civil servant, holds a managerial-level post in the nation’s top spy agency.

During questioning on Sunday, Kim denied all accusations on his potential involvement in the fabrication of the three documents: the entry and exit records of Yu between North Korea and China in 2006, and two confirmation letters for those visits in the name of the Helong police station in China and the Sanhe immigration office, respectively.

According to the prosecution, Kim denied that a high-ranking official in the NIS directed him to fabricate the documents.

“The Korean Consulate General told me that it was difficult for them to obtain the travel records of Yu,” Kim said, according to the prosecution. “So I obtained the documents through a broker, but I didn’t know that they were all manipulated. I also reported to the headquarters [of the NIS in Seoul] that all the documents were original and official.”

The prosecution believes that it is technically impossible for Kim to fabricate the documents independently without direction from a superior, particularly because he holds a managerial position in the spy agency.

In the meantime, the suspect, Yu, admitted that he lied to the spy agency when he came to South Korea, claiming he was a North Korean national. He has denied allegations that he spied for the regime.

“I will accept punishment for keeping quiet about my Korean-Chinese identity and [lying about being] a North Korean defector,” Yu said yesterday in a telephone interview with the JoongAng Ilbo. “But I never spied for North Korea.”

He also denied the allegation that he worked as a broker in South Korea by remitting money to North Korea on behalf of defectors who want to help their families living in the Communist state.

The prosecution suspects Yu earned about 2.6 billion won ($2.4 million) since he has been in South Korea since 2004 by working as a broker and illegally sending money to the North.

“One of my relatives [in China] works to send money for defectors, so I just introduced him to [the defectors],” Yu said. “The relative asked me to use my bank account for his work, so I did. The clients were mostly ethnic Koreans, not North Korean defectors.”

BY KIM HEE-JIN, JUNG HYO-SIK [heejin@joongang.co.kr]



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