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[Opinion] North Korean Spies

Posted April. 12, 2006 02:59,   


Macao’s Banco Delta Asia became infamous when the U.S. government put the bank on a money-laundering blacklist in September last year. It was a warning against the bank’s involvement in the money laundering of counterfeit U.S. dollar bills. The bank is once again in the spotlight for its participation in the North Korean spy case. The National Prosecutors’ Office announced, upon arresting Chinese emigrant Chung (aged 67) on spying charges, that Chung had received operational funds through a North Korean agent’s Banco Delta Asia account. The announcement shows that North Korean black money shored up in Macao is being funneled into spying activity in South Korea.

Chung is the third spy to be arrested since the Roh Moo-hyun administration came to power. The National Intelligence Service website introduces major North Korean spying activities, including armed North Korean spy Kim Dong-sik’s infiltration in Buyeo and a spy disguised as Mohammad Kanso, a Filipino. Most of the uncover operations took place during the Kim Dae-jung administration, and there has not been a notable case after 2000. The number of spies caught in the past few years has dwindled: 2000 - one, 2001 – one, 2002 – zero, 2003 – three, 2004 – one, and in 2005 – one. Some are questioning if the agency is fully devoted to capturing spies.

Two reasons can be attributed to the shrinking figures. One reason is because after the summit talks between the South and the North in 2000, the increased exchange and cooperation with the North shrank the agency’s role in its operations against the North. Another is because the North does not have to dispatch spies to obtain useful information. Assemblyman Chung Hyung-keun of the Grand National Party, a public peace expert, objects to this explanation. He said in a radio interview two days ago that there are still many spies operating in the South and that the government is keeping quiet about many cases so as not to anger the North.

The world was surprised to find in 1990 after Germany’s reunification that East Germany had attempted numerous covert maneuvers in West Germany. According to East German information agency Stasi documents, as many as a few thousand to tens of thousands of spies obtained information from political and academic circles and labor organizations. German prosecutors investigated 3,000 spies and arrested 500 of them in the 1990s. It is not just their story.

Han Ki-heung, Editorial Writer, eligius@donga.com