Things have been busy of late on the Korean espionage front.
South Korean prosecutors have arrested five people on charges of spying for North Korea by creating an anti-state organization. The charges come under South Korea’s National Security Law, which makes it a crime to provide unauthorized assistance to North Korea, or to take actions that promote Pyongyang as the legitimate government of all of Korea or undermine the legitimacy of the South Korean government. The investigation is ongoing and more arrests are expected.
Prosecutors say that the suspects were members of Wangjaesan, a secret political organization named after a mountain in North Korea. Among those arrested is the alleged leader of the organization, the 48-year-old head of an IT company identified by his surname Kim. Prosecutors say the group worked with Office 225, the part of Pyongyang’s espionage apparatus in charge of spies and sleeper agents in South Korea.
While the group has some tenuous links to the main opposition party, the hammer will most likely come down more heavily on the Democratic Labor Party and some labor groups. The DLP is the home of the most radical members of the “national liberation” faction of the South Korea left. The faction believes that true liberation of Korea is not possible until American forces leave the peninsula and Seoul takes an independent course. For that reason, many members of the faction believe that Pyongyang is the legitimate government of Korea.
This is not the first time people connected with the DLP and other progressive groups have gotten into trouble for allegedly working for Pyongyang. A group of progressives were convicted on charges of spying for North Korea during the Roh Moo-hyun administration.
Naturally, the DLP has released a statement screaming bloody murder:
The Lee Myung-bak administration is suppressing progressive forces with public security issues. This is the government’s last struggle to avoid public judgment in parliamentary and presidential elections next year by making a dent in the Democratic Labor Party.
(Just one guy’s opinion: I think there are thousands, if not tens of thousands of South Koreans who are in secret contact with, or are actively spying for, North Korea. Some of those have gained impotant positions in South Korea over the years and are doing what they can to help Pyongyang from those positions. They will do whatever they can to keep the the Kim Jong-il regime propped up and avoid Korean unification, if for no other reason than to prevent their files in Office 225 from being made public.)
Showing North Korea the money
Sometimes the motivation for working with the North Koreans is political but sometimes money is the main motivation; South Korean police have also arrested five people on Thursday for allegedly working with North Korean hackers to steal millions of dollars from online gaming sites in South Korea.
The alleged criminal conspiracy involved a South Korean gang working with the Korea Computer Centre, North Korea’s IT brain trust. The North Koreans operated out of China. South Korean officials have accused North Korea of launching cyber attacks on South Korean and American websites, charges Pyongyang has denied.
The National Intelligence Service was heavily involved in the investigation.
While this might seem like an odd enterprise for North Korea’s elite IT group, Pyongyang is not above using any means available to make some cash, as evidenced by the occasional arrest of North Korean diplomats for smuggling or the selling of North Korean drugs in China and other places.
UPDATE: The left-wing Hankyoreh newspaper is countering the North Korea spying stories with a story on South Koreans selling military trade secrets to an American company.