Korean spy changes sides for mom

2010-07-06 09:03

Seoul - A North Korean agent who switched sides and prospered in South Korea was recruited again decades later by Pyongyang after being promised visits to his mother in the North, a prosecutor said on Tuesday.

The 63-year-old surnamed Han was arrested last week over a plot to assassinate a top-ranking defector in the South.

"He was recruited again by the North in 1996 and entered North Korea four times until 2007 to see his mother," the prosecutor told AFP on condition of anonymity, giving more details of a case first reported last week.

Han's twisted fate began in 1965 when he was selected for training as an agent in the communist state, according to news reports confirmed by the prosecutor.

On the night of July 20 1969 Han and a colleague named Cho landed on the southwest coast of South Korea, carrying pistols, six grenades, a radio transmitter and $100 000 in cash.

Shifting loyalties

They travelled to Seoul four days later but a resident spotted the pistols in their bags and reported them to police, resulting in their arrest.

Han told investigators at that time that their mission was to stir up unrest in the South which was then engulfed by protests against President Park Chung-Hee, who was on a path toward dictatorship.

Han shifted loyalties to the South, informed on other spies and was released the following year.

He got a job with a large company, married a South Korean woman and made a fortune through land speculation with the money he received from Seoul in return for changing sides.

Coded messages exchanged

Despite his successful life in the capitalist South, he still missed his mother in the North. In the 1990s he travelled to Yanbian in China, where separated families from North and South met secretly, in hopes of meeting her.

North Korea's intelligence agency became aware of Han's desire. In return for allowing him into the North to meet his mother and brothers there, they recruited him again in 1996.

Han exchanged coded email messages with North Korea containing information on the whereabouts of Hwang Jang-Yop.

Hwang, who was once secretary of the ruling Workers' Party and a tutor to current leader Kim Jong-Il, defected in 1997 during a visit to Beijing.

Han was also told to collect information on other North Korean defectors, and details about how South Korean authorities screen fugitives from the North to identify secret agents.