Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - South Korean activists paid by Pyongyang agents: probe

South Korean activists paid by Pyongyang agents: probe

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
This Aug. 2, 2021, file photo shows four South Korean activists entering the Cheongju District Court, about 140 kilometers south of Seoul, to attend an arrest warrant hearing for allegedly taking orders from North Korea to stage anti-weapons protests. YONHAP

South Korean activists paid by Pyongyang agents: probe

Civic activists detained last week for allegedly receiving orders from Pyongyang to organise protests against South Korea’s purchase of F-35A stealth fighters from the US had received at least $20,000 from the North’s agents for their operation, warrant applications by the authorities showed.

The National Intelligence Service and the police searched the homes of four activists in Cheongju, North Chungcheong province, South Korea in May and found USB flash drives containing encrypted files of orders and reports they exchanged with North Korean agents, according to news reports.

Investigators found that the two men and two women received instructions from members of the North’s espionage department to win over some 60 politicians, labour and civic group members in the Cheongju area to engage a campaign against the purchase of stealth fighters.

The reports included photos of pledges of allegiance to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un written in blood, and recent activities in the minor leftist Minjoong Party and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.

The activists are charged with violation of the National Security Act, which incriminates a member of an anti-government organisation and anyone who receives orders from it, who committed an act to accomplish its purpose (Article 4); anyone who praises, incites or propagates the activities of an anti-government organisation (Article 7); anyone who makes contact with a member of an anti-government organisation (Article 8); and anyone who provides weapons, money or other convenience to members of an anti-government organisation or those who received their orders (Article 9).

Three of the four suspects have been detained on warrants issued by the Cheongju District Court last week, and the one who hasn’t been, surnamed Sohn, claimed that the case was fabricated and that the National Security Act should be abolished.

The four suspects allegedly set up in 2017 an underground group that follows Pyongyang and seeks to overthrow the South Korean system, and were each tasked with indoctrinating child care teachers, nurses, labour union members at a large conglomerate and young people in the North Chungcheong region.

Three months prior to launching the group, one of the detained suspects met with a North Korean agent in Beijing in May 2017, holding a newspaper in his left hand, a water bottle in his right hand, and carrying a black bag on his shoulder, as agreed in advance, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Without greeting, the two walked around a university, several metres apart from each other, and got on a taxi after confirming they weren’t being followed.

Another detained suspect exchanged signals with North Korean agents in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh in April 2018, got on separate tuk-tuks and moved to a temple and then to a hotel where they met.

The other detained suspect used a storage locker at a supermarket in Shenyang, China, in November 2019 to receive $20,000 in cash from a North Korean agent.

The North Korean espionage branch, dubbed the Cultural Exchange division of the United Front Department, gave detailed security instructions to the South Koreans such as “buy used computers and other equipment, avoid real name registration and do not leave traces of purchase” and “replace computers every three years, wireless modems, SIM cards and email addresses every six months”.

The main opposition People Power Party (PPP) accuses the Moon Jae-in administration of complacency in dealing with the North’s espionage, and demanded on August 9 that Moon’s office state its position on the case.

Choe Jae-hyung, a presidential contender of the PPP, said on August 9: “Is there any issue that President Moon thinks is worthy of mentioning?”

About claims that the detained activists had worked in a special advisory body on labour issues for Moon’s election campaign in 2017, the presidential office said earlier it was “not worth mentioning”.



  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro