Somewhere, Kafka’s spirit is smiling. A South Korean court and has handed down guilty verdicts to five
members of the Il Shim Hue spy ring individuals who had coincidentally all possessed similar loyalty oaths to the Lodestar of the Great Korean Race and received their pay and instructions at a safe house at 3089 Dongxuhuayuan, 18 Shuangqiaodong-lu, Zahoyang-qu, on the outskirts of Beijing.
Bailiff! Read the verdict!
A Seoul court convicted five people, including a Korean-American businessman, of spying for North Korea, but acquitted them of charges of forming a spying ring, saying the group was too loosely organized to be called a formal organization….
“The court acknowledges that Jang recruited the four accused and formed individual relationships with each of them,” said Judge Kim Dong-o, who presided over the trial. “But, it is hard to identify their group as an anti-state organization under the National Security Law because such an organization should have a certain hierarchy and system. [Ser Myo-Ja, Joongang Ilbo]
Alrighty then. I respectfully ask to read back the transcript of the defendant’s indictment, at which Your Honor presided:
Jang Min-ho (44), who was apprehended on charges of creating the pro-North group “Ilsimhoe,” admitted in court that he created the organization and contacted North Korean officials.
In the second round of the first hearings conducted by the 25th criminal division of the Seoul Central District Court (presided by Judge Kim Dong-o) on December 28, Jang said, “After creating a private unification project group in January 2002, it is true that we used the name Ilsimhoe for convenient reasons.
They called it a “Valentine’s Club” when communicating with their handlers in North Korea, you know.
On contact with North Korean agents, he said, “I didn’t know they were part of the espionage, but I have met North Korean officials. [Donga Ilbo, 29 Dec 2006]
And these days, what ordinary North Korean citizen isn’t reading dossiers on South Korean politicians and notes of the internal deliberations of South Korean political parties? Most likely, these guys were looking for juicy gossip for their blogs.
The irony of this result is that if the Il Shim Hue case had a weakness, it wasn’t the question of the organization of this conspiracy so much as the confidentiality of the information they sent to North Korea. The subversion case always seemed stronger han the espionage case. Il Shim Hue was a full-service fifth column cell. It was at least one of North Korea’s chosen tools for fanning the hatred of America in South Korea, for plotting both large and small-scale political violence, for trying to manipulate at least one very significant election, and for gaining a high degree of influence over one minor opposition party. There’s little question that it was an active, well-organized cell whose lines of control came from Pyongyang, through Jang, by far the best paid member, down to the other members. The information passed back to Pyongyang seems to have been a fairly minor part of their activities. But for whatever reason, the court and the prosecution took a different path.
Even so, the defendants got hard time by Korean standards, although probably not enough to induce cooperation for a promise of leniency or parole:
Jang Min-ho, 45, also known as Michael Jang, received a nine-year prison term from the Seoul Central District Court and a 19 million won ($20,391) fine. He took orders from a North Korean agent in China, and provided confidential information about South Korea. Jang was also convicted of possessing anti-state propaganda materials.
Four others were also convicted of cooperating with Jang and spying for North Korea. Lee Jeong-hun, 44, a member of the Democratic Labor Party’s Seoul chapter, and Son Jeong-mok, 43, who runs a cram school teaching students how to write essays, each received six years in prison. The court handed down a five-year prison sentence to Lee Jin-gang, 44, an office worker, and four years to Choi Gi-yeong, 40, former vice secretary general of the Democratic Labor Party. [Joongang Ilbo, previous link]
Expect their sentences to be commuted by December, and for this investigation to stop dead in its tracks. Shortly after this
spy ring group of individuals who acted alone was discovered, at the moment when the investigation threatened to reach the Blue House itself, the Roh Administration hastily replaced the head of the National Intelligence Service with a loyal party hack. Jang, as you may recall, was an American and a former American soldier who was stationed at Yongsan. Later, his wife even got a job there, as a Lieutenant Colonel’s secretary. Jang would be well advised to get himself an American lawyer, because he may well be subject to the personal jurisdiction of the feds.
Prosecutors said Jang created the Ilsimhoe spy ring in 2002.
Jang moved to the United States in 1982 and was introduced to the North’s ideology through a Korean-American friend there, prosecutors said.
The prosecution has said Jang visited the North in 1989 via Europe and was trained there for one week. In 1998, Jang met a North Korean agent in Beijing, China, and was ordered to create a spying organization. He then recruited the four other members, prosecutors said.
So who is appealing this odd result? Absolutely everyone!
Update: Speaking of sleeper agents ….