A South Korean spy has been apprehended in Pyongyang, the North Korean Ministry of State Security announced to the Korea Central News Agency on Thursday.
The man, who initially claimed to be a Chinese resident of North Korea, eventually confessed that he was a South Korean who had entered North Korea from a third country, the KCNA said, and had been disguising himself as a “religionist”.
KCNA reported that the Ministry of State Security’s initial investigation indicated “that he was engaged in anti-DPRK espionage and plot-breeding activities in a third country bordering the DPRK for nearly six years”.
The spy allegedly “entered the DPRK to rally dishonest elements within the boundary of the DPRK and use them for undermining the stability of the social system in the DPRK,” according to the report, and the “an institution for state security is now intensifying investigation”.
An official from South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told the Associated Press that the DPRK was making “a ridiculous argument” which was “groundless”.
Andrei Lankov, a specialist in Korean studies at Kookmin University, told NK News that there “is always a chance that the statement is a fake. Nonetheless, it is highly probably that the person is indeed a South Korean agent”.
“The South Korean intelligence services operate in Chinese North East,” he said, “and they might indeed send their operatives to the North and/or recruit North Koreans (the latter seem to be a far better option)”.
But, Lankov says, “accusations about the person being ‘engaged in the plot-breeding’ are false – South Korean authorities do not encourage activities which might contribute towards ‘undermining the stability of the social system in the DPRK’.”
“Seoul wants status quo, and the U.S. wants status quo, too,” he argued.
This is not the first time the DPRK has alleged that religious missionaries in the DPRK were engaging in anti-state activities. Kenneth Bae, who was arrested in November 2012 when he was acting as a missionary in North Korea, was sentenced to 15 years hard labour for an alleged plot to overthrow the North Korean state called “Operation Jericho”.
The KCNA’s article on Bae’s trial reported that: ”When last in America and South Korea, Kenneth Bae went to several churches and preached about the need for North Korea’s immediate collapse.”
North Korea claims Bae had a following of “1,500 people,” and worked with other South Korean missionaries to create an “anti-government coalition.”
Leonid A. Petrov, a Korean studies expert at the Australian National University told NK News that it is natural for spy-related stories to come out: “States and nations divided by civil war always spy against each other – it would be strange if North and South Korea, who share the language and culture, were not doing the same”.
“Both regimes claim exclusive legitimacy on the peninsula and won’t compromise,” he continued. “Spying operations of Seoul and Pyongyang against each other will cease only when Korea is unified, but this would also mean a victory for one and the demise for another regime”.
North Korean spies are often caught in the Republic of Korea. In 2010 DPRK spies were dispatched – and caught – trying to kill high level defector Hwang Jang Yop.
Picture: Eric Lafforgue
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