North Korea Arrests Alleged Spies
By WENDELL MINNICK, TAIPEI
North Korea’s National Security Service (NSS) has arrested an undisclosed number of alleged foreign spies and locals working for an unidentified country, NSS spokesman Li Su Gil said Sept. 5.
The spokesman said those arrested collected government documents and information on the military, and were caught with Global Positioning System equipment, pinhole cameras and digital cameras. He did not identify their nationalities.
Officials displayed a fake rock containing a satellite communications device and a flower pot with a listening device hidden inside.
Analysts said they believe the “foreign nationals” were South Korean intelligence officers or perhaps South Korean or Chinese contract agents working for Seoul.
“It is quite possible that once again the South Koreans have been trying to buy into North Korea,” said Kenneth Quinones, who served as the U.S. State Department’s North Korean affairs officer from 1992 to 1994. “This has happened several times in the past — i.e., using money, women, etc., to entice North Koreans into becoming sources for ROK [South Korea] intelligence. President Kim Yong-sam’s administration excelled in this. Kim Dae-jung shut it down. I would be surprised if [President] Roh Moo-hyun has restarted the practice, but it is possible without his knowledge, thus the lack of an official outcry from Pyongyang.”
North Korean officials said “some corrupt” North Koreans had traveled abroad and had been turned into “spies” with the use of money, sex and blackmail.
It’s unusual for North Korea to publicize such arrests, and it’s not clear why they decided to do it this time, said Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation, Washington.
“It may be a warning about the dangers of opening up the country to outside influence and indicative of little likelihood of future progress in six-party talks,” Klinger said. “Or, conversely and counterintuitively, it could be laying a marker that the regime is vigilant against the dangers of foreign contamination, even as the government prepares to open up further to South Korean or other foreigners.”
South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung and Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo will accompany President Roh Moo-hyun on an unprecedented trip to North Korea on Oct. 2 for a two-day summit with North Korean leaders. It is the first time a South Korean defense minister has traveled to the North. Discussions are expected to include borders and fishing rights.