Over the last decade, 49 North Korean spies have been discovered operating in South Korea, and no fewer than 21 of them entered the country disguised as defectors, it was revealed today.
A member of the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee, Democratic Party lawmaker Shim Jae Kwon publicly revealed the information, obtained from a Ministry of Justice report on espionage detentions post-2003.
Of the 49 spies, 14 were apprehended during the Roh Moo Hyun era (February 2003-February 2008), 31 were caught under the Lee Myung Bak administration (to February 2013), and four in the initial period of the current administration of President Park Geun Hye (from February 2013).
Of the spies, three had posed as defectors in order to carry out orders to assassinate former Chosun Worker’s Party secretary Hwang Jong Yop following his highly publicized defection in 1997. Hwang died in 2010.
Other tasks undertaken by North Korean agents over the last decade include: ▲ obtaining state secrets; ▲ inducing the repatriation or re-defection of defectors living in the South; ▲ analyzing trends in defector society; ▲ observing the work of the National Intelligence Agency; ▲ fostering ties with pro-North groups in the South; and ▲ laundering counterfeit money.
Ten of the spies were receiving their orders from the National Security Agency, five from the General Bureau of Reconnaissance, three from the Defense Security Command of the Chosun People’s Army, and one from Office 35 of the Chosun Worker’s Party. Two were dispatched from other agencies.
Commenting on the data, Shim stated, “While we must guarantee the highest level of human rights and security for North Korean defectors, the fact is that out of all of those involved in spy activities almost half of them are posing as defectors. This proves there is a problem in the Ministry of Unification’s management of defectors and the NIS’ investigation process.”
On this, a diplomatic source informed Daily NK today, “There are signs coming from here and there that since the Kim Jong Eun regime came to power there have been more instances of the luring and coercing of defectors than there were before,” before predicting, “The North Korean authorities consider defectors to be traitors, and therefore see it as of no consequence if they are caught, so the use of defectors for spying activities will not decline.”