October 17, 2004 21:10
Communications from North Korea to operatives and pro-Pyongyang organizations in the South have remained steady in recent years at around 80,000 messages annually, but only two to four North Korean agents are nabbed in the country every year, it was reported Sunday.
Messages originating in the North and suspected of carrying North Korean directives involving espionage in South Korea increased in 2001, a year after the Inter-Korean summit meeting, a National Assembly information official disclosed Sunday on condition of anonymity. He added that messages to spy vessels targeting the South jumped tenfold from 2000 to 2003. Citing an intelligence agency report, he said that messages coded by random numerical tables that could not be deciphered numbered over 300 last year.
Instructions from North Korea to its South Korean-based spies shifted from forming underground cells by workers, farmers and students in the 1980s to gathering information on military installations in the 1990s and to collecting public opinion and winning collaborators since 2000.
North Korean agents arrested during the first eight months of the year totaled 14, according to intelligence sources. The figure was three in 2000, four in 2001, two in 2002 and two in 2003, compared to 20 in 1998 and 15 in 1999.
Opposition Grand National Party lawmaker Kwon Young-se, a member of the Parliamentary Information Committee, said that none of the North Korean operatives arrested in the South since 2000 had infiltrated the South directly from the North, but that all of them, except for two arrested in 2003, had come in through third countries. That the number of North Korean messages concerning espionage in the South has not changed means that there has been no significant change in the North's strategy toward the South, Kwon observed. He said it is worrisome that arrests of North Korean operatives have fallen under such circumstances.
The two Koreas signed a secret pact during the inter-Korean summit talks in 2000, to stop subversive activities against each other, prompting then National Intelligence Service Director Im Dong-won to order the cessation of all North Korean operations, a former top NIS official said. Under the secret accord, our operations against the North were suspended, but it cannot be verified whether the North has done the same here, he said.
(Yoon Jung-ho, firstname.lastname@example.org)
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