October 30, 2006 08:19
Five former student activists arrested on charges of spying for North Korea delivered at least 46 encrypted reports to the North containing highly confidential information about the ruling-party leadership, military and civic organizations, investigators said Sunday. Reports by the alleged spymaster of the group known as Ilsimhoe, Chang Min-ho (44), deal with presidential hopefuls of the opposition Grand National Party and the operation plans of North Korean spies here. The National Intelligence Service (NIS) suspects that North Korea is trying to influence the presidential election next year and is investigating what concrete instructions Pyongyang gave its spies here and its plans for next year.
The NIS decoded a handful of the 46 reports it retrieved from seized computers and data storage and submitted them to the court to apply for arrest warrants for the deputy secretary-general of the Democratic Labor Party, Choi Ki-young (40) and others on Saturday. They include information on movements in the DLP and elsewhere in South Korea after North Korea’s nuclear test, the failure of a 2005 motion forcing Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung to resign, strategies for defeating the GNP candidate for Seoul mayor by supporting the ruling Uri Party in the May local elections, and ways of mobilizing environmental groups for the anti-American movement.
National Intelligence Service chief Kim Seung-kyu said the case involves long-serving North Korean spies. “I suspect this case is about a North Korean spy ring,” he said. "It is shocking to see.” Kim, who resigned Thursday, said an intensive one-month investigation confirmed the charges raised against the five already arrested. “We are investigating additional suspects in the case”. Asked who will succeed him, Kim told the Chosun Ilbo it was “very important” who becomes the next NIS chief. "Some of the candidates are unsuitable due to concerns that they tend to do what [politicians] want them to do. Considering the presidential election next year and the operations of the NIS, the right candidate would be politically neutral and have a global view and knowledge,” he said.
Kim would neither confirm nor deny that he was directly or indirectly pressured over the investigation by other former student activists of the so-called 386 generation now in influential positions. "I don't care,” he said. "The investigation of North Korean spies will continue until the truth is found, and everyone [in the NIS] will work hard to do that even if it costs them their job, regardless of my resignation.” He said “everyone” in the agency was conducting the probe with “a strong sense of patriotism and is working to improve our nation's security by arresting North Korean spies.” The remarks hint at discord either between the NIS and some politicians or within the NIS over the investigation. The NIS chief tendered his resignation to President Roh Moo-hyun on Thursday, when news of the spy scandal broke, reportedly saying he did not “want to be a burden” in the planned reshuffle of the foreign and security lineup.
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