Fabricated evidence to be withdrawn in spy case

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Fabricated evidence to be withdrawn in spy case

The prosecution announced yesterday that it would discard three key pieces of evidence provided by the National Intelligence Service later confirmed to be fabricated in a case involving a Korean-Chinese man suspected of spying for Pyongyang.

However, the investigation into the suspect, Yu Wu-seong, an ethnically Korean-Chinese national who came to South Korea in 2004 under the guise of being a North Korean defector, will continue using other evidence, it said.

“All the prosecutors in charge of the case concluded that they will still charge Mr. Yu with spying [for Pyongyang] by using the previous evidence but omit the controversial [falsified] documents submitted to the appeals court,” the prosecution said in a statement.

The documents in question relate to a trip to North Korea that the defendant is alleged to have taken in 2006 from China. Records show that Yu visited North Korea via China between May 23 and May 27. However, the prosecution has maintained that he also went a second time between May 27 and June 10.

The case goes back to a trial held in August 2013 at the Seoul Central District Court in which Yu was accused of leaking the personal information of approximately 200 defectors living in the South to the North Korean regime. He was eventually acquitted of the charges as a result of insufficient evidence.

The prosecution appealed the verdict, however, and between October and December 2013 submitted three documents to the appeals court as key evidence against him: the entry and exit records for Yu’s second trip between China and North Korea in 2006, and two confirmation letters for those records in the name of the Helong police station in China and the Sanhe immigration office, respectively.

In February, the Chinese Embassy in Seoul confirmed that all three of those documents had been fabricated, prompting suspicions that the National Intelligence Service, whose agents provided the papers to the prosecution, were attempting to frame the defendant. The prosecution blamed NIS agents working in China for the fabrication, who obtained the papers from three outsourced brokers in China.

The espionage case has since cast a severe shadow over the credibility of the nation’s top spy agency. So far, the agents involved in providing the documents have all claimed that they were unaware of the fabrication and accused the outsourced brokers of falsifying the documents themselves.

One of the brokers currently detained claimed the agency had been aware of the fabrication all along. The two other brokers have since been disconnected with the spy agency.

The prosecution is now preparing to present a compact disc to the appeals court that contains video footage of Yu’s sister, Yu Ga-ryeo, admitting during a questioning by the prosecution before the first trial that her brother was, indeed, spying for the regime.

When she came to court to testify as a witness, however, she ended up backtracking on her story.

According to the prosecution, in the video, Ga-ryeo also told prosecutors that her brother secretly crossed the border on May 27 to gain entry into North Korea a second time.

It added that it will continue its other investigation into the NIS and the fabrication of the documents.

Since 2004, Yu has been posing as a North Korean defector in Seoul, sources told the JoongAng Ilbo, receiving all the government subsidies available to that demographic, including university scholarships.

The 34-year-old Yu did not have a North Korean ID card but held Chinese citizenship, which allowed him to freely travel between North Korea and China. To obtain defector status in South Korea, he lied to the NIS, presenting a false North Korean identification card.

Sources in the prosecution told the JoongAng Ilbo that Yu has enjoyed all the government support offered to North Korean defectors, including the apartment where he currently resides.

In 2007, Yu won an apartment through a government lottery system only offered to North Korean defectors. He also got a job at the Seoul city government that was also strictly meant for a North Korean defector.

A civic group in Seoul recently accused Yu of illegally receiving a total of 77.2 million won ($72,021) in governmental subsidies, including his apartment. The prosecution has launched a probe into those accusations.

The subsidies apparently include resettlement money from the government, and 13 million won and 9.5 million won in scholarships from Yonsei University and the Catholic University of Korea, which he attended.

In March 2007, Yu took up residence in an apartment in Songpa District, eastern Seoul.

About two months after he lived in the apartment, Yu allegedly paid an additional 23 million won as a deposit to the government to change the monthly rental system into jeonse, so he no longer had to pay monthly rental fees.

“Currently, I am a defector and a minimum-wage worker in South Korea,” he told the JoongAng Ilbo by telephone. “There are other Korean-Chinese people who are recognized as defectors and living in the same kind of apartments as I am.”

Aside from the subsidies, Yu also received about 24 million won working as a contract employee at the Seoul city government for 22 months.

BY KIM HEE-JIN, LEE KA-YOUNG [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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