July 29, 2010 11:06
A South Korean agent who was deported from Libya in June on spying charges was apparently accused of seeking information about the likely successor to Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi -- an extremely sensitive subject in the North African country.
A South Korean diplomat on Wednesday said Qaddafi's second son is the most likely successor, but there is talk that his fourth son is also emerging as a strong candidate. "To my knowledge, our staff member tried to contact officials close to the fourth son and ended up being misunderstood by Libyan authorities." Just like North Korea, Libya is highly likely to see a hereditary transfer of power.
The source said the agent who was deported was not fluent in Arabic and gathered information with a South Korean interpreter who lives there. It appears the Libyan authorities arrested a South Korean missionary and a farm owner in the process of investigating the case, the source said.
The identity of the interpreter and his whereabouts remain unknown. Libyan authorities apparently investigated several Korean businessmen and members of the Korean community there.
What exactly the deported agent was doing is unclear, but Libyan media reported that he was engaged in intelligence gathering activities focusing on Qaddafi's international aid agency and an organization run by his son. The Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Associations is run by the second son, while his fourth operates a wide range of intelligence organizations.
Given that Libyan officials were angered by both the type of intelligence that was involved and the way it was gathered, according to a Korean government official, there is speculation that the agent may have tried to bribe his way into the organization run by the fourth son.
Critics here say the National Intelligence Service's clumsiness caused the diplomatic spat, and accuse the Foreign Ministry of making matters worse with its slow response. They say the NIS failed to exercise due caution in handling a very sensitive issue in Libya, and the Foreign Ministry should have grasped the seriousness of the situation much faster.
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