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N. Korean Spy Who Posed as Defector Busted

Posted August. 29, 2008 02:38,   


Authorities said yesterday that they apprehended a North Korean spy disguised as a defector.

Won Jeong-hwa was caught while handing over military intelligence to the North. Her boyfriend, a South Korean Army captain, was also indicted for failing to report her despite knowing she was working for the North.

A joint investigation team grilled Won’s stepfather “Kim,” who supervised and funded her espionage activities and delivered stolen information to North Korean agents in China.

The North trained Won as a spy in December 1998 and she searched for and deported North Korean escapees in Jilin, China, authorities said.

Under orders from Pyongyang in September 2000, she disguised herself as Korean-Chinese woman Kim Hye-yeong. In October 2001, she allegedly entered South Korea to marry a man here.

Seven months pregnant when she first entered South Korea, she got divorced a month later and told South Korean intelligence she was a North Korean defector. She got to know a couple of military intelligence officers assigned to military bases in Gyeonggi Province, while delivering anti-espionage speeches. Through her personal relationships, Won obtained national secrets.

She also contacted leaders of organizations representing North Korean defectors to find their whereabouts, including that of Hwang Jang-yeop, the former head of the North Korean Workers’ Party.

Won tipped the North on the locations of leading military and intelligence facilities, major North Korean defectors including instructors who helped defectors resettle in South Korea, and personal information and photos of South Korean agents and military officers.

Based on her information, North Korea reportedly tried to hack into the e-mail accounts of the officers on the list.

In addition, the North ordered her to murder a couple of South Korean spies with poisoned needles, but she failed, investigators said.

From last year, Won started visiting Japan to collect information on North Korean defectors living there.

A source close to the investigation said, “Won hired a marriage broker to get close to military officers with secret information. She lived with the arrested Army officer and used sex as an espionage tool.”

Won allegedly kept contacting North Korea despite her defection and got along with military officers, prompting Seoul intelligence to closely watch her from March 2005.

Upon her July 15 arrest, she first denied the charges but eventually confessed.

Suwon District Attorney Kim Gyeong-su said, “Spies disguised as North Korean defectors can freely use the North Korean accent and fake naiveté about South Korea. We suspected that certain defectors were North Korean spies, and this is the first case to confirm our suspicions.”

needjung@donga.com verso@donga.com