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The Robert Kim Interview

Posted June. 02, 2004 20:58,   


"I thank everyone who helped me until now. Without them, I wouldn`t be here, and I owe my physical and mental health to them."

Robert Kim (Kim Chae-gon, 64) finally returned to his home in Ashburn, Virginia after spending the past several years in prison following his arrest in September 1996. He was charged for "spying and conspiracy" for providing confidential information to a military attaché to the Korean Embassy during his days at the ONI (Information Headquarters for U.S. Navy) as a computer analyst.

Kim was sentenced to nine years in prison and a three-year probation in July 1997, but was released on bail today for his good behavior. It has been seven years and eight months since his imprisonment.

"It`s been so long and I feel free, but I am still under pressure since I`m not completely `out` yet. Many Koreans assisted during my time in prison which helped me get though the painful days. It really reminded me that I am Korean. I plan to return the love to them from now."

Kim will be officially released on bail two months from now, on July 27, but will remain under probation. During his probation, Kim is prohibited from leaving Virginia and is required to keep an electronic location tracker on his ankle at all times.

"I was not able to see my father pass away in February this year because I was in prison. If I could, I would rush straight to his grave, but I can`t,” added Kim.

When asked if he is upset with the Korean government for getting him arrested, Kim reservedly answered, "I don`t know what the Korean government has done so far, so I cannot say," but also added, "I`ve worked for a government before, and I know that there are things that can and cannot be done officially. I`ve heard that the Korean government tried to help me, but things can`t always go as you wish."

Kim says he does not wish to think about the charges. "(I even) appealed to the court of law, but it was never heard. I feel like a victim, but there`s nothing I can do now."

With regard to the heightening tension between Korea and the U.S., Kim says, "Change is inevitable in the relationship between the two countries. As a sovereign nation, Korea also has issues for which it must speak up." He stressed, “But anti-U.S. semantics is bad. We should all try to get along."

Soon-Taek Kwon maypole@donga.com