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N. Korean assassin `surprised` at SK`s free democracy

Posted December. 01, 2010 11:41,   


“It’s surprising that an investigation is conducted under the legal process. This is truly a free democracy.”

This is part of the affidavit of Ri Tong Sam, 46, a North Korean assassin who was deployed to South Korea to kill the late Hwang Jang-yop, the highest-ranking North Korean official to defect to the South. The affidavit was submitted Tuesday in an investigation by South Korean prosecutors, who indicted Lee for violation of the National Security Law.

Authorities said Lee, 46, who was arrested by intelligence agents last month, was surprised to be informed of his rights as a defendant and to be probed under law instead of undergoing torture or beating. Though aware of the South Korean legal system before his deployment, he said he never imagined that even an assassin like himself would be entitled to the legal process.

In November last year, Lee crossed the Tumen River dividing China and North Korea and was given the order “Even if Hwang dies tomorrow, kill him today. We want to seize him but it’s impossible to do so, so just kill him.”

The order was similar to that given to Kim Myong Ho and Tong Myong Kwan, two other North Korean agents sentenced to 10 years in prison by a South Korean court. Lee delayed going to South Korea after Kim, who was staying in Thailand in April this year, was arrested.

Hwang died of a heart attack on Oct. 9, thus rendering Lee`s mission meaningless.

Prosecutors said Lee was trained in espionage for 16 years and categorized as a “special combatant” known as an excellent hand-to-hand fighter and swimmer.

In 1992, he crossed the military demarcation line, stayed in the region near the controlled area, and returned to the North. In 1995, he attempted to enter the northern part of Gangwon Province in South Korea, but returned to the North when his comrade was killed in a gunfight.

Lee also said he was ordered to make Hwang’s assassination look like a haphazard crime committed by a North Korean defector by using a hammer and axe instead of a poisoned needle or gun.

He is also known to have been ordered to contact another agent in the South to stand with a certain newspaper in front of the statue of legendary Korean naval hero Yi Sun-shin in downtown Seoul.

On the North’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, he told intelligence authorities in a note that the attack was intended to strengthen the North’s power succession process. He said he does not believe the North`s division in charge of South Korean operations was involved in or participated independently in the attack.