Suspected N. Korean Spies, Shielded by Ruling Party Parliamentarian, Played a Leading Role in Anti-U.S. Protests (The Death of an Alliance, Part 58)

[Update: Welcome Gateway Pundit readers; this story is developing rapidly, and now, there’s new evidence that the North Koreans tried  to help the ruling leftist Uri  Party win the Seoul  mayor’s race last May.  Plus, more evidence of a North Korean hand in fanning anti-Americanism in the South.]

A  widening  spy scandal surrounding  several senior members of the  leftist Democratic Labor Party and  a U.S. citizen  may have  led to  the resignation of the head of the National Intelligence Service yesterday.  Now, evidence has emerged of a direct link  between Pyongyang’s agents in the South and the violent anti-American protests at Camp Humphreys last May (I served at Humphreys six years ago).  As I will explain below, that also makes at least an indirect link to some members of the Uri Party. 

The protests were  organized and led  by an organization calling itself “the Pan-National Committee to Deter the Expansion of U.S. Bases.”  The Committee frequently mobilized  thousands of violent protestors, many armed  with bamboo poles and iron pipes.  The protests resulted in hundreds of arrests and injuries, including serious injuries. The three groups that played the most important role in those protests were South Korea’s largest labor organization, the pro-North and violent  Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), the fiercely radical  Korean Federation of University Student Councils or Hanchongryon, and the Democratic Labor Party (DLP).

What role  did the DLP suspects play?

The  [Democratic Labor Party]  vice secretary general [Choi Ki-young] has reportedly taken a leading role in pro-North Korean activities. He played a key part in organizing protests against the move of U.S. Forces Korea headquarters to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province and was also involved in demonstrations condemning the government’s support for the UN resolution sanctioning North Korea in the wake of its nuclear test. Party sources said Choi showed more interest in issues like the abolition of the National Security Law and anti-American protests in Pyeongtaek than questions of public welfare. He also participated in candle light vigils over the killing of two middle school girls by a U.S. Army vehicle some years ago.

Lee Jung-hun also leaned toward a pro-North Korean ideology of national liberation when he was a member of the DLP’s central committee. National liberation, along with proletarian democracy, was one of the two major ideological strands among student activists in the 1980s. Since former student activists of the national liberation faction reportedly took a more active part in protests against free trade talks with the U.S. and the move of the USFK base, there is speculation linking the espionage scandal to the organized anti-American movement.

Who else played a key role in organizing those protests?  Set your wayback machine for last May, and examine the roles of two men in particular.   The first, Father Moon Jeong-Hyun, was a leader of the Committee, and possibly a co-Chairman; prosecutors nearly issued an arrest warrant for him because of the protests’ violence.  This excellent article  described Moon’s role:

A firebrand Catholic priest leads daily slogan-shouting protests at the epicenter of the worst standoff in nearly four years between South Korean forces and an array of student groups and labor organizations.

The priest, Moon Jeong-hyun, 69, returned here less than a week after holding out for most of a day on the roof of the school building with nine other priests and two National Assembly members defying the riot police, who drove the activists from the building, some of them kicking and screaming.

A distinctive figure with a flowing beard, often seen holding a video camera as he records prayer meetings and confrontations, Moon and his cohorts were promised they would not be arrested before descending down a ladder from the roof on May 4.

Moon has lived in the village for the past two years, making it the center of the same anti-US struggle that he led during enormous protests in Seoul after the deaths of two schoolgirls, run over by a 50-ton US armored vehicle during military exercises nearly four years ago.

“Pray for this land,” Moon preaches to the villagers. “You have prospered on this land. Pray for your homes. You have built these homes. The land is yours. Your prayers will protect you.”

Now Moon is protected by activists manning checkpoints at entrances to the village within shouting distance of police blocking off narrow paved roads across the rice paddies into the village, on the western fringe of the bustling town of Pyongtaek, on the main railroad to Seoul.

The activists carry banners, not weapons, but they’re clearly ready to battle any attempt by police to enter the village.

Now, the really curious part.

Some wonder if the South’s governing Uri Party is actually encouraging the standoff in which an assembly member from the party, Im Jung-in, is playing a leading role.

Im was up on the roof with the priests before they all came down on May 4 – and has appeared again at rallies in the village. He talks frequently on his mobile phone with party officials, and his presence in the village symbolizes support for the farmers and activists in the government.

I don’t know that Im was involved with the North Koreans, but he was clearly doing everything he could to cover for others who, with or without Im’s knowledge, were.  Im appears to have insured that Moon wouldn’t be arrested for his role in the violent protests.   He also  joined with five  other Uri parliamentarians to demand the withdrawal of riot police in the face of the violent protests:

Meanwhile, six lawmakers from the ruling Uri Party released a statement calling for the withdrawal of riot police from the Pyeongtaek site. “The presence of soldiers and riot police there resulted in unnecessary conflict and misunderstanding with the locals,” they said. “To minimize that, the government needs to withdraw them. The six are Woo Won-shik, You Seung-Hee, Lee In-young, Im Jong-in, Jung Chung-rae and Choi Jae-cheon.

Im even joined the DLP recently in calling  on the government to abolish  the National Intelligence Service’s authority to investigate violations of the National Security Law (via the DLP Web site).  Im, in other words, was a close collaborator with the senior leadership of a committee whose membership included suspected North Korean spies,  and whose activities  may have been inspired and directed from Pyongyang.  Im did everything in his power to protect them  from investigation, arrest, and prosecution, and to secure the release of those already arrested.  He did so by using his connections to the leadership of the Uri Party.

For further reading on  the pro-North sympathies and affiliations of the  other  partners in the Committee, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and Hanchongryon, start at page  11 of my congressional testimony.   More on South Korea’s Fifth Column here. Here’s one of my favorite quotes, from KCTU President Kim Tae-Il:

During the May 1 North-South Workers’ Rally in Pyongyang, the workers of North and South agreed to unify to carry out the anti-American struggle”¦. The center of that struggle with the United States is Daechu-ri, Pyeongtaek.

Yes, this is the leader of  South Korea’s largest labor organization.  One final interesting, though not necessarily damning fact, is that the husband of Prime Minister Han Myeong-Sook was also a close collaborator with the anti-base coalition.

For its part, the DLP claims this is all a nasty plot by those notorious Yankee stooges in the Uri Party.

“The NIS did not elaborate details, but said Lee contacted a North Korean spy when it arrested him. We must say this is a plot by the NIS to set up the anti-North Korea and anti-unification atmosphere while conflicts intensified between North Korea and the United States, and also between the two Koreas,” the statement said.

And unless my eyes deceive me, they also said the opposite:

“We think that this has been set up by pro-Pyongyang forces within the National Intelligence Service,” the party’s spokesman Park Yong-jin said in a briefing.

Emphasis mine.  And yes, we can expect more arrests:

Investigators reportedly found a notebook that contained lists of names of South Korean civic group officials and former student activists, with other information that the sources refused to disclose.

The Chosun Ilbo wonders why the NIS Chair, Kim Seung-Kyu,  is resigning, and hints at a cover-up.  Finally, kudos to U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow — now pushing for South Korean compliance with Resolution 1718 — for being honest with the Korean people about the effect anti-Americanism is having on bilateral relations:

When asked how anti-U.S. sentiment here was viewed in the United States, Mr. Vershbow launched more pointed remarks. “I think there is a perception in the U.S. these days that Koreans have become more and more anti-American, and that they don’t appreciate the U.S. defense guarantee and the commitment of troops on the Korean peninsula, and this contributes to a certain mistrust and sometimes even animosity toward Korea.”

“It’s actually encouraging that the silent majority has been a little bit more vocal in recent weeks in reminding people of just how important our alliance still is.”

Yeah, well, I’m not sure they’re a majority, but I’d agree that they’ve been pretty silent, and that’s really the root of the entire problem.


  1. Here is an interesting observation from a friend of my from the Air Force who too is retired.

    Thanks, Tom.
    Having spent three years in Korea, and having married a Korean lady 23 years ago (still married to her), this takes on a special meaning. Another possible reason for the protests at Pyeongtaek (Camp Humphries) is the presence of an Army intelligence organization, “Field Station Korea”, that monitors DPRK (North Korean) broadcasts.

    V/R, Tom Kubiak


  2. As right as I’ve been on North Korea’s actions this year, I’ve been that much off on what I expected the anti-US leaders to do.

    I really thought they would push harder at Pyongtaek — since they saw the US looking for the exit door.

    But they haven’t. I thought they would do more to grab headlines, but they haven’t – unless the Korean press has been going out of its way not to cover it. That is a small possibilty, because the press does usually put its foot down on these groups’ activities when it fears real damage to the alliance, but I still thought the anti-US groups would be pulling out all the stops by now to delay the Pyongtaek expansion.

    In stead, the only video activity I get off the anti-US sites is this travelling anti-US stage group and some FTA rough housing….

    I don’t get it…..


  3. usinkorea,

    As you know, I believe that having a lot of US ground forces in Korea is actually a trememdous propaganda coup to the pro-North Korean groups. That’s a big part of why I believe in rehauling/downgrading the alliance. If the pro-North groups also see things this way, wouldn’t they also want to keep us around as a political milk cow? And of course, if we leave, we’re out of arty range and less tied to South Korean policies. We even have a credible threat to remove our air cover if the South Koreans go even loonier.

    Just a thought … secretly, the Red Guards might actually choose to ease up when it looks like they could get what (they say they) want.


  4. A comment on Fr Moon Jeong-Hyun of Kunsan. He is a fire-brand that has hopped from one “hot topic” to another to stir up the pot for years. He was also part of the early democracy protests and jailed and allegedly tortured by the military regimes. Though I may not agree with his politics, I truly believe he is committed to his cause of getting the US out of Korea as part of his anti-war beliefs.

    He first came to my attention in Kunsan while protesting the No Missile Defense for Korea in front of the gates of Kunsan AB back in the 1990s. KBS even did a special on him at the time. As the leader of the anti-war movement, he basically was the leader of the Pan Korean Committee in the protests. Under the “agreement” each of the protest groups could draw on other groups to support their disparate causes ranging from Green Korea’s environmental protests to the then growing “we are one” unification groups.

    He then bounced to the Seoul area in June 2002 after the tragic accident with the two middle school girls. Yes, he was in the lead of the anti-American movement that swept the nation in the most vile, hate-filled action of the Korean people. However, if you look at his focus, it was on getting the American soldiers out of Korea — with the other “manipulators” — including Roh Moo-hyun — stirring up the hatred.

    He then moved onward to lead the March 2003 movement to prevent the ROK from going to Iraq. After the hypocritical tear-filled response by Roh on how he was “forced” to send the troops to Iraq to “protect” Korea, the anti-war organization lost its impetus with the defeat of its protest. After that the lead group switched to the Unification NGO groups as the leader of the Pan Korean Committee and Fr Moon fell into the background as was not heard of for a while.

    He then emerged at Daechu-ri to protest the movement to Pyeongtaek by the 2d ID — and even switched his residence there. Under his leadership, he organized the farmers in their three-year non-stop vigil to prevent the move. From my perspective, Fr Moon simply organized local farmer groups in the protest, while the radical “soldier” elements (Hanchongryeon student activists) were drawn from the Pan Korean Committee to pursue their agenda.

    When the Ministry of Defense FINALLY moved to take the land by force — the movement lost its impetus and following. The sign that the fight was over was when Fr Moon appeared at the FTA protests in support of the farmers groups. That was the final sign that the protests of Daechu-ri was over — and the residents had lost their fight.

    Whether you agree with his political beliefs or not, he is at least consistent. He wants the US military out of Korea because he truly believes that the US is the cause for the separation of the two Koreas. Right or wrong, you have to respect the man for his beliefs. Whether he is a communist or communist-sympathizer or left-leaning radical, really doesn’t matter. His position has always been clear and he has always been consistent.


  5. You could say the same for plenty of evil men: bin Laden, Hitler, and Trotsky all had consistent beliefs they pursued ruthlessly. Sorry, I’m not letting him off easy. I can’t prove, but suspect, that “Father” Moon serves one of the world’s most evil systems of government. Guess I don’t necessarily respect strong beliefs as much as I do things like, say, hard work or commitment to one’s family. I look at the merits of the beliefs themselves.


  6. I don’t believe that Fr Moon has ever come out to applaud the North — though he has claimed they are “brothers” in the sense of one nation. I believe there are significant differences between those Koreans who believe that the US is to blame for all their ills — and those Koreans who are out to install the DPRK sense of values in the ROK.

    With that said, you know my opinion of Roh Moo-hyun and his ilk. Your search for those who support “one of the worlds most evil systems” might be easier to identify in the higher ups of the political hierarchy.

    Yes, I KNOW the North has committed such evil that the world has yet to face the inhumanity and barbarism involved behind the DPRK’s closed doors. However, I do not believe in my heart that Fr Moon as a Catholic priest could ever support such a form of government. He may be a socialist in his beliefs, but I will never believe he as a Catholic priest supports the horrific barbarism and acts against humanity committed by the North.

    Korean Catholicism is founded in the martydom of the 17780s where believers are willing to suffer for their religious beliefs — and likewise are willing to suffer for what they believe is the betterment of the people. Fr Moon is a product of this culture — and would never support DPRK prison camps with its torture and death nor the starvation of the people for the maintenance of a worldly government. Fr Moon ultimately answers only to a higher power — not a worldly regime.

    I’m sorry but I don’t agree with your opinion of Fr Moon. Though I don’t agree with Fr Moon’s politics as a retired US military person, I do continue to respect him for what he believes he is doing for the betterment of society. Again his vision is not mine — but I can understand where he is coming from.


  7. I was going to say something along the lines of Joshua, but I would add I think you put too much int othe fact he is a priest. There have been some serverly misguided men of faith before. And it is easy for me to picture Moon as one of the Koreans who refuse to admit the evils that are in North Korea —- as one of the people who believe it is mostly a pack of propaganda lies done by the US and neo-con people in South Korean society.

    I also think it is too much to de-link Moon from the groups that are easily recognizable as pro-North Korean.

    Particularly since you often see him hand-in-hand with the black bearded, balding guy who wears traditional clothes and screams with his eyes closed when he works up the crowd, and who works closely with the 20-something crowd. That guy has been working with pro-NK groups and has been on hand when big shots from the North have come down to the South on those big official visits.

    Moon also easily taps the Hanchongryon troops when he wants them and he gets labor support when he wants them.

    He used all these groups to get the Koon-ni bombing range at Maehyang-ri shut down.

    I agree that he truly believes what he says – that the US is the key reason for problems in South Korea, but he also believes the same about why NK has problems, and I would bet a good bit of money he would say NK really isn’t such a bad place – that it was mostly American propaganda.


  8. On why we haven’t seen more action at Pyongtaek —

    Some people have argued before that NK really doesn’t want USFK out, because it frees up the US to use the miltary option against Pyongyang.

    I have never bought the idea, and I still don’t, but it is one possible reason why Moon has backed off in Pyongtaek and has not been pushing harder elsewhere.

    There haven’t been as many videos up on the anti-US sites, and the ones I’ve been finding are more of the “friendly face” variety they began around Feb of this year.

    That made sense then — before the people were moved off the land in Pyongtaek – because it gave these groups a shot of making the government look like the bad guys.

    But, since then, I thought these groups would see how closely the US government was watching South Korea —- and they would seek to help convince the US it wasn’t worth staying in South Korea. Which would mean they would break out all the good publicity seeking tactics of breaking onto US bases, the US Embassy, and everything else to grab media attention. —– like going after the MacArthur statue in Inchon.

    They have not.

    Instead, they have this travelling “play” they are putting on —– in an effort to continue to look like the good, peaceful guys.

    As a result, they have been ignored.

    With these latest spy-ring charges coming up, I am not ruling out the possibility the leaders of these groups had an idea it was going to come down, and they have decided to lay low for fear of ending up in jail and/or having their connections to North Korean funds and North Korean spies themselves.

    Normally, when these groups back down from the use of violence, it is because they fear turning middle of the road Koreans against them.

    Right now, the middle of the road Koreans are against them because of fear of losing USFK.

    To me, that means the groups should feel free to pull out all the old, aggressive tactics. What have they got to lose? More importantly, what have they got to gain? They could gain the ear and eyes of Washington and speed up the US desire to get out.

    But, apparently, these groups don’t see things like I do. Maybe they are just not too tuned into how things work on the American side.

    Whatever the case ——- things have been much more quiet (at least from this distance) on the anti-US protest side of Korean society than I would have ever imagined —- with all these big ticket items happening at once —– FTA, movie quota, Pyongtaek, NK being pressured more, and so on…


  9. US in Korea — About Fr Moon I concede the point. However, after doing the histories on the Catholic churches in the Pyeongtaek area and interviewing the church folks, I tend to be a little biased I guess.

    Anyway, I like the old coot despite his politics. Nothing is more entertaining than watching his in-your-face routines nose-to-nose with a riot policeman. But heck, I liked Bill Clinton too while he lied to the American public’s face about his under-the-table cigar smoking girlfriend.

    About the action at Pyeongtaek/Camp Humphreys, it is affected by the season and general malaisse (?) of the populace.

    1) Koreans by nature are fair-weather protestors. They don’t like rain or cold. They like hot — the hotter, the better — for a good rip-snorting protest. It’s fall and getting to the end of the protest season. (On my site, I’ve tracked those protests and watched it peter out to nothing.) The last few protests have been real small ten-twenty local protestors without any outside elements.

    2) The general populace are now not interested in Pyeongtaek so much as the FTA is drawing all the attention. When they tried to hold a protest at Daechu-ri — nobody showed up. If they are activists, they are all at the protests of the FTA up in Seoul or Cheju.

    3) The Daechu-ri protests have lost their focus. The government eviction orders will take effect on the 31st of this month for the last of the holdouts. There will be forced evictions in Daechu-ri. It is over…

    4) The farmer protests have shifted their focus. The red flags along all the back roads of Pyeongtaek farmlands are still flapping in the breeze, but getting faded and tattered. The FTA has garnered all the attention as the farmers are fighting for their livelihood. Daechu-ri is a lost cause and the FTA is real and present danger.

    5) The business folks of Anjung-ni (at Camp Humphreys Main Gate) have started getting rough with the protestors that want to come and protest in their area. Last time, it ended up with a few of the protestors in the hospital after being surrounded and attacked. Though sometimes at odds with the Area III commander, Col Tolentino, they have decided to kiss-and-makeup with a “festival” at the Front Gate to show their appreciation for the US troops who spend all their money in their bars.

    BUT I DON’T BELIEVE THE CONTROVERSY IS COMPLETELY OVER AT PYEONGTAEK/CAMP HUMPHREYS (K-6). I don’t believe the land issue has been settled at the October SCM. Remember that the area needed a $500 million flood control as demanded by the US and the ROK said only, “We’ll think about it…” US was going to do a SEPARATE survey of the area. What were the results? All of this was hush-hush until the Oct SCM. Didn’t hear nada from the SCM except that the road map for the 2d ID move to Pyeongtaek being approved. What does that mean? I believe there are a lot of snakes out there in the Pyeongtaek relocation plan that no one is talking about yet. The cost-sharing issues between the US-ROK are still going on — and it looks very dismal. All I notice is that USFK units are shutting down all over Korea as the downsizing is already in motion — though no one will admit it.

    As far as anti-Americanism for the present is low key as you said — the Koreans are now fearful that the US is pulling out and all the bluster is gone after the Oct 9 nuclear test.

    If you look at the latest by-elections you will notice that the results — though with low turnouts overall — are a complete rejection of the progressives (Uri Party and DLP) who are the anti-American rabble-rousers. There is a shift in politics — and it looks the GNP/conservatives are on the rise.

    Though the anti-Americanism is sometimes seen in the FTA protests, it is mostly the farmers who are stirring up the pot. The latest violence at the FTA on Cheju Island does not seem to have real anti-American overtones. They simply want the entire FTA process shutdown — or at least the agricultural aspects halted.


  10. How is the actual construction at Pyongtaek going?

    I figured, given the recurrent nature of the “turtle effect” every time Korea is in fear of getting bad international press, hurting exports to the US, and/or losing USFK, that the protests would become smaller and would be pounced on by the press

    but – I figured it would only take a handful of people and the will to do so to cause major headaches in the construction effort.

    Is there a lot of construction going on?

    I figured we’d see things like the tractors blocking the roads so no cement trucks could come in or blocking gates and such or doing vanalism to the equipment off (or on) site.

    We haven’t heard about that.

    So, I wonder if the big start of construction is still off in the future – or – are they hard at work right now????

    On Moon – I would most likely find him amusing —- if he were not so successful – and we (the US) didn’t have so many troops in harms way for a society that likes to entertain Moon-ish thoughts all the time.

    Lastly, I wonder when he is going to head over to that new island where the US is installing bombing range sensors. He really made the big time with Koon-ni….


  11. US in Korea — Major construction OUTSIDE the fence has not started as yet. The ROK supposedly has finished their historical survey, but has not released the results. The ROK engineering study is going on — but more like piece-meal. Then the US engineering teams will start. As you can imagine all of this stuff was supposed to over by now but everything went on a hold until after the October SCM.

    Construction on the camp itself continues unabated. Most of the construction is on the family housing towers and headquarters buildings. Some changes had to be made after the CFC will not be moving to Camp Humphreys, but these are claimed to be only minor hiccups. The trucks are still moving through the construction gate and none seem to be impacted.

    Down at Kunsan, have not heard anything on the start of the installation of the WISS (Weapons Impact System) at Chikdo besides promises, promises, promises by the ROK. The Kunsan goverment gave their approval in Sep for use of the range 70 km off Kunsna, but made some ridiculous demands on altitude restrictions and reducing the safety limits size. It’s really not over. LtGen Trexler made the threat that the USAF elements would be moving out if the ROK did not provide increased scheduling of range time and the WISS. Last I heard the ROK was willing to increase the ratio a smidgen, and promising the $3 million WISS was going to start installation sometime soon. (Note the famous “PROMISE, STALL, NEGOTIATE” technique in operation. Gen Trexler just had his going away parade so he’s now out of the picture. I just wonder what they decided at the October SCM. Nobody’s talking. Bottomline: Everything still up in the air and no one’s talking — at least not publically.


  12. Thanks Kalani.

    Sometimes I get the feeling maybe some people are right in believing perhaps NK really doesn’t want USFK out.

    Because, I don’t think the good reverend and others in the anti-USFK movement are this bad at understanding how the US (in Korea) works. I think they must know that USFK is hanging by a thread, and if they pushed really hard right now, they might be able to convince the US to get out sooner rather than later.

    I think they must know that much.

    And knowing that much, why are they not going the extra mile in Pyongtaek?

    It makes no sense.

    I know the reverend and others have enough “troops” at their displosal who are willing to do the deeds and take the police heat. With a little imagination, if I had some dedicated university students and labor union members to work with, I could be causing MAJOR delays and headaches at Pyongtaek.

    Why this is not happening is a bit of a mystery to me…..


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