NIS arrests two men for spying for Pyongyang

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NIS arrests two men for spying for Pyongyang

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) arrested two South Korean men on espionage charges and is questioning them about alleged anti-state activities they planned to carry out, the NIS reported to lawmakers Friday.

In a briefing to members of the parliamentary intelligence committee Friday, the NIS revealed that it arrested one espionage suspect in an Internet cafe in Dongjak District, northern Seoul, in May as he was writing an email to a contact in North Korea describing domestic affairs.

The NIS didn’t elaborate on the suspect’s report or his identity except saying that he was in his late 40s or early 50s.

The NIS reported it arrested another man in Ansan, Gyeonggi, around the same time on charges of violating the national security law.

A source in the intelligence community told the JoongAng Ilbo Sunday that the two were accomplices who had conspired on behalf of Pyongyang and at the expense of national security.

The source added the two worked together for a long time, without elaboration.

The two suspects are now in custody and being probed by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.

The authorities are said to have questioned them on what kind of information they were seeking to hand over and why.

Investigators are also looking into other accomplices.

Under the national security law, which prohibits activities deemed pro-Pyongyang or contacts with North Korans without prior government approval, a spy suspect can be detained up to 50 days before indictment.

Reports on the two alleged spies emerged Friday when the NIS briefed the committee members of its arrest with a video clip showing the moment of the apprehension of the suspect at the Internet cafe.

The NIS explained that they had decided to present the footage to prove they had shown the suspect an arrest warrant issued by a court and were following due legal process.

South Korean media reported at first that the man arrested in the Internet cafe was a pastor who had disguised himself as a campaigner for North Korean defectors.

But another source in the prosecution refuted that. The source said the report appeared to have confused this arrest with an espionage case last year in which a pastor was busted for pro-North Korea activities.

The Defense Security Command (DSC) was also said to have reported to committee lawmakers that it arrested four suspects on charges that they had tried to win over four military officials to spy for the Kim Jong-un regime, according to lawmakers briefed on the matter.

Rep. Yi Wan-young of the Saenuri Party said he was told all four men were civilians and refused to elaborate on the case since it was classified. Yi said the DSC forwarded the case to the prosecutors.

Among other intelligence reports on North Korea, the NIS revealed North Korea Kim Jong-un has gained 40 kilograms (88 pounds) over the past four years, from 90 kilograms in 2012 to 130 kilograms now.

The NIS believes Kim suffers from insomnia. It also reportedly told lawmakers Kim often binge drinks and eats because he is constantly anxious about his security.

BY KANG JIN-KYU, LEE KA-YOUNG [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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