In evidence fabrication scandal, two indictedProsecutors indicted a mid-ranking agent in the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and an outsourced broker working with the agency yesterday on charges that they colluded to fabricate key evidence in an espionage case, in a bid to convict a Korean-Chinese man of spying for Pyongyang.
The charges by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday came 45 days after allegations first arose that the NIS fabricated three documents to be used as evidence by the prosecution against defendant Yu Wu-seong, an ethnically Korean-Chinese who came to South Korea in 2004 under the guise of being a North Korean defector.
If convicted, the NIS agent and broker, both identified by their surnames Kim, could face up to 10 years in prison for manipulating evidence to be used in court against Yu.
The 48-year-old veteran agent, who was arrested March 19, has denied the allegations against him and claimed he never knew the documents were falsified.
However, the broker said during questioning that the agent was already aware that the document he had provided was fake and that the agent had directed his actions.
The 61-year-old broker made headlines after he tried to kill himself in a motel room on March 5 in Seoul, leaving a note in which he implicated the spy agency for spearheading the manipulation of the evidence.
Kim, the broker, is alleged to be the person who provided the NIS with one of three falsified documents.
Following the indictments yesterday, prosecutors are set to question more NIS officials to determine if other agents were involved in the scandal, particularly in the upper chain of command.
The fabrication controversy surrounds documents that were provided by the NIS and submitted to the court by the prosecution afterward, which were later confirmed by the Chinese Embassy in Seoul to be false: the entry and exit records for Yu between China and North Korea in 2006 and two letters confirming those records from the Helong police station in China and the Sanhe immigration office.
Yu is suspected by the prosecution of having collected detailed profiles of approximately 200 defectors living in Seoul and leaking them to the regime.
After Yu was acquitted in the first trial, the prosecution appealed the verdict and submitted to the court three documents provided by the National Intelligence Service seeking to prove Yu’s visit to the Communist state.
During the course of the trial, the prosecution claimed Yu visited North Korea twice in 2006 via China, between May 23 and May 27, and May 27 and June 10. Yu admitted to taking the first trip, saying he attended the funeral of his mother. However, he denied the second trip. The documents were later declared to be false by the Chinese Embassy in Seoul.
The case surrounding the fabricated evidence has cast a severe shadow over the credibility of the NIS, which prompted the nation’s top spy agency to issue a rare public apology on March 9 expressing its regrets over the “unexpected” controversy and vowing to punish any agents or officials found to have committed irregularities.
One NIS agent, identified only by his surname Kwon, also made headlines on March 22 after he attempted suicide. He was found with a burning charcoal briquette inside his car a day after being questioned by prosecutors for his alleged involvement in the evidence forgery.
In his suicide note, he criticized prosecutors for pushing the case too far at the expense of national security. Kwon is currently recovering in the hospital following the attempt to take his own life.
BY KANG JIN-KYU [firstname.lastname@example.org]