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`Libya Deported S. Korean Intelligence Agent Last Month`

`Libya Deported S. Korean Intelligence Agent Last Month`

Posted July. 28, 2010 13:29,   


Libya is known to have deported last month a South Korean intelligence agent who had been stationed at his country`s embassy in Tripoli.

A diplomatic source said Tuesday, “The Libyan government detained early last month a member of the National Intelligence Service stationed in Libya, who was gathering intelligence on North Korea and defense industry cooperation, under the pretext of harming Libya’s national security. Tripoli then designated him persona non grata June 15 and deported him three days later.”

The agent is the second South Korean official deemed persona non grata and deported from abroad since the reciprocal deportation of South Korean and Russian diplomats in July 1998.

Another source said the agent was spotted and photographed giving money to a Libyan intelligence officer to gather data on construction projects in Libya. After this was reported to Tripoli, all construction projects implemented by South Korea are known to have been halted.

The Libyan economic mission to South Korea also suddenly stopped consular administration June 23 apparently for the same reason. A source said, “Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi was infuriated after being briefed on the incident and instructed his administration to sever diplomatic ties with South Korea.”

Seoul dispatched an intelligence delegation to Tripoli last week to explain that the agent’s activities were for normal information gathering, saying it was all a misunderstanding.

The delegation is awaiting Tripoli’s response and will reportedly return to Seoul late this month if discussion is concluded smoothly.

A Seoul official said Tuesday, “We’re being extra cautious to ensure that the incident doesn’t negatively affect bilateral ties. We’re making all-out efforts to seamlessly resolve the situation early.”

In a related move, ruling Grand National Party Rep. Lee Sang-deuk, the older brother of President Lee Myung-bak, visited Libya as a special presidential envoy July 6-13 but had no chance to meet Gaddafi.

Rep. Lee instead held talks with Libyan Prime Minister al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi. The Libyan official showed the lawmaker South Korean reports criticizing Gaddafi, and angrily said, “Libya has given most of its social overhead capital projects to South Korea, yet you do this.”

Rep. Lee had to talk to the prime minister four times before South Korean construction projects in Libya were allowed to resume.

A source said, “Tripoli apparently rejected Seoul’s explanation that the intelligence agent simply tried to gather data on construction, saying he was caught transferring money to a Libyan intelligence officer. It is a misunderstanding that the agent tried to gather classified intelligence beyond construction information.”

Arab media quoted Libya as saying the agent gathered intelligence on Gaddafi, his son and senior Libyan officials, and that Tripoli is investigating if such intelligence gathering was for South Korea or another country.

In response, a South Korean diplomatic source called the news reports groundless, adding, “We only have differing views with Libya over the objectives of intelligence activities.”

“We’ve maintained friendly ties with Libya for 30 years and have no reason to conduct activities running counter to Libya’s national interests,” he said. “As soon as the misunderstanding is resolved, the Libyan mission in Seoul will resume consular administration.”

Libyan authorities are also handling incidents involving a South Korean missionary and a South Korean farm owner in the Islamic country. Both were arrested on the charge of violating religious rules.

Diplomatic sources say the incidents are being handled separately from that of the intelligence officer.