[Previous posts on the Il Shim Hue Fifth Column scandal here. So far, the NIS has accused the ring of controlling violent anti-American protests, trying to infiltrate civic groups, controlling senior officials of the Democratic Labor Party, and trying to manipulate the Seoul mayoral election.]
As bad timing goes, it’s one for the books. The far-left minor opposition Democratic Labor Party’s leaders had planned their visit to Pyongyang some time ago, before they realized that their party would be at the center of a growing scandal over a North Korean spy ring. Confoundingly enough, they decided to go right ahead with the visit, but couldn’t exactly ignore the scandal, either. How to deal? Note: the following is not, I repeat not, a parody:
The Democratic Labor said, “As for the suspicions of spying, we will speak directly to the North to verify or disprove them.” The Democratic Labor Party will ask about the “386 spy scandal” when its leaders visit North Korea between October 30th and November 4th.
The DLP said, “Kim Jong Il already promised not to spy on us at the 2000 meeting with Kim Dae Jung. So they will check this and find out what the real story about this spy scandal is.”
That ought to get to the bottom of things … especially if the North Koreans show them their signatures on the cancelled checks (drawn on a Banco Delta account, naturally).
Courtroom veterans will of course recognize the Chewbacca Defense immediately. Still, I sense some cognitive dissonance with the DLP’s previous denials that any of their leadership was spying for the North.
The next part of this story will follow some disclaimers. First, any connection between this scandal and President Roh is tenuous and indirect. The new information has curio value, but substantively, its main value is what it tells us about the ideological paths traveled by the student radicals who came to the fore in the late 1980’s and make up much of Korea’s political and cultural leadership today.
Now, the new information. One of those under arrest as part of this alleged spy ring is one Yi Jin Gang. Yi, as it turns out, was a member of the underground radical left-wing “Patriotic Students’ Group” at Korea University in the 1980’s. Another member of this group was one Ahn Hui-Jung, who did jail time in 1987, when he was among 26 members of the group who were arrested. The report offers no proof that Ahn and Yi knew each other, and it was a big enough group so they might not have known each other (which by itself wouldn’t prove much, either). Yi was one year senior to Ahn. Nor does any evidence suggest that Roh was a member of the group, or that Ahn is suspected of anything now.
In fact, the story would be a complete yawner except for the fact that Ahn went on to serve as one of Roh’s close aides and even held a senior position, on the order of Chief of Staff, in Roh’s campaign. Oddly enough, the government pardoned and compensated him for his trouble last year. Ahn is still considered one of the die-hard left wingers in Roh’s circle of friends.
In other words, some wispy smoke, but no fire.
I will presume innocence in the absence of direct evidence, but this is worth watching. It is tempting to recall another group of friends who attended Cambridge together, especially since Koreans are famous for the enduring loyalty of their college friendships.
Following relevations that North Korea ran a well-connected spy ring in the South that canvassed South Korean views of its nuclear test, it’s ironic that the North is toughening up its own counterintelligence to prevent the South from doing the same thing:
North Korea has toughened surveillance of locals suspected of gathering information about its atomic and military activities in the wake of its Oct. 9 atomic bomb test, an informed source said Sunday.
The Ministry of People’s Security, Pyongyang’s top police agency, issued a directive to its security agencies on Oct. 15 that they should closely monitor and report suspicious activities, the source said.
The usual suspects include “former North Korean defectors, former convicts, smugglers, merchants and those who have relatives in China.” The North thinks that the outside world might want to know a bit more about developments on the inside following the nuke test. D’ya think?
As China joined the United Nations’ punitive sanctions against North Korea for its nuclear test, Pyongyang increased guard patrols in its region bordering China out of fear of mass defections by its people, the source said. Also, the value of Chinese currency and rice prices in the North Korean market have risen, the source said.
“In the face of international sanctions, and concerned over possible mass defections, North Korea has dispatched a guard officer every 20 meters along its border region,” the source said.
And yet the North just gives us more compelling reasons to be curious, such as the suspicious movements that suggest the possibility of another test (a great idea in my mind, since it means less weapons-grade material and much wasted effort at enrichment). It’s all satellite theater. The North Koreans know we’re watching. They do this for effect.