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Robert Kim Returns to Homeland

Posted October. 06, 2005 07:16,   


“It’s really like a dream. My heart is throbbing. I’m looking forward to the day I visit my homeland.”

Robert Kim (Kim Chae-gon, 65) became free. He earned his freedom for the first time in nine years and one month since 1996, including seven years and eight months that he served in jail.

Kim said on October 5, “On October 4 (local time), the Eastern District Court of Virginia accepted the application of the suspension of execution of probation which was filed on August 2.” Accordingly, Kim’s probation, which was originally scheduled until 2007, was over that day.

Kim was sentenced by a U.S. court to nine years in jail and three years probation and was jailed in federal prison on September 24, 1996, on charges of giving classified information to Korea while working as an official at the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) responsible for computer analysis. After his sentence was reduced in 2002, he was set free in 2004. He was supposed to be on probation until 2007 at his home in Ashburn, Virginia, but the probation ended two years earlier.

According to Kim, the judge said, “The court decided to end the execution of his sentence not only because the document Kim gave to Korea is not a major threat to security of the U.S. but also because that happened already 10 years ago, and Kim faithfully carried out seven years and eight months of jail time and more than one year of probation.”

Although the U.S. Justice Department opposed suspension of his probation, the court released the ruling, acknowledging Kim’s application.

Kim’s determination to find the truth earned him an earlier-than-expected freedom through the court’s decision.

The Korean government has maintained a passive attitude, citing insufficient cause for intervention because Kim violated the positive law as a U.S. citizen. He expressed his contrition in his autobiography “Returning Home” released July last year, “The lukewarm attitude of the Korean government depressed me. I couldn’t help but feel betrayed.”

However, Kim did not just idly wait for help from his homeland. He has persistently dealt with the issue, selecting a lawyer by selling not only his home but also his brother’s. With little accomplished, he prepared for documents required for trial by searching for a code of laws himself. He also applied not only for transfer to another prison but also for sentence reduction and a trial for re-sentencing.

His supporters in Korea formed “Robert Kim Sponsorship” in July 2003, a year before his parole. The sponsorship economically and emotionally supported Kim’s family who went bankrupt due to long struggles in court and imprisonment and even whose livelihood was threatened.

Se-Jin Jung mint4a@donga.com