In South Korea, where North Korean agents still infiltrate into the South to kidnap and occasionally even kill people, commie conspiracy theories aren’t always just for John Birchers. The prosecution has just announced the arrest of a 35 year-old female North Korean “defector,” Won Jeong-Hwa, for spying for the North Korean regime.
Before coming to the South in 2001, Won served jail time for theft and feared possible execution for committing another crime — stealing tons of zink, which is punishable by death in the resource-strapped North. Years after hiding in northeastern China, she returned home with relatives’ help and, in 1998, became a spy for North Korea’s National Security Agency.
The North first commissioned her to kidnap North Korean defectors in China for repatriation. In 2001, she entered South Korea by marrying a South Korean man. Posing as a defector, she turned herself in to South Korea’s National Intelligence Service. [Yonhap]
Won’s modus operandi involved exchanging — no, don’t say it! — sexual favors for “classified information, including photographs and the exact locations of the country’s key military installations,” which anyone can get from Google Earth anyway, and information about weapons systems, which is another matter. After marrying and divorcing one South Korean to get into the South, she formed relationships with a series of military officers, including a 26 year-old captain. Won also gave the regime the names of North Koreans who spoke out publicly and revealed sensitive information about the North’s security. She delivered these goods to North Korean agents in China.
All of which gives new meaning to that old Korean expression about northern women and southern men.
The AP reports that Won confessed, which should be taken in the context of the rather “robust” methods South Korean police sometimes use when interrogating suspects. Of course, Won has been through North Korean interrogations, too, after she was repatriated back the North, but it’s not as if she stood up especially well that time, either. That was when Won agreed to become a spy for the North.
The AP, incidentally, also reports that Won had also “plotted” to murder some of her paramours with poisoned needles, but buried that rather sensational point in the middle of its story. Rupert Murdoch would not be pleased.
The question the government is asking now is how many more officers were involved in these “transactions” with Won, and how many more spies there might be among the 14,000 defectors now living in the South. I’m going to go out on a short limb here and say “plenty.” Defectors are currently screened by the National Intelligence Service. Obviously, there are some holes in the screen. And with the number of defectors having increased by 42 since last year, it’s safe to assume that the North Korean intelligence services will keep trying.
Update: The Times of London has a more Murdoch-friendly report, with a partially pixelated picture of Ms. Won. It also adds that Ms. Won cooperated with the North Korean intelligence services in ratting out other defectors hiding in China.
Consider just who Ms. Won helped Kim Jong Il’s minions kill and those who will grieve for them, and any sympathy you might have for her ought to vanish. She will be tried for espionage, but she ought to be tried as an accessory to murder. Yet I have a sense of dread that she’ll do light time, get out, write her memoirs, and live the rest of her life as a minor celebrity.