Tag Archives: spying

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Dead South Korean Agent Left Note Denying Spying on Civilians

Pictured above: The National Intelligence Service Headquarters in Seoul. (Screenshot captured via JTBC/YouTube)

by KIM TONG-HYUNG, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean government agent who was found dead in an apparent suicide left a note denying suspicion that the National Intelligence Service has been spying on South Koreans by intercepting cellphone and computer conversations, police said Sunday.

The 46-year-old NIS agent was found dead Saturday in his car parked on a hill in Yongin, just south of Seoul.

In his note revealed by police on Sunday, the agent said that the intelligence service “really didn’t” spy on civilians or on political activity related to elections. He apologized to colleagues and NIS senior officials, including director Lee Byoung Ho, saying that overzealousness in doing his job might have created “today’s situation.”

The intelligence service told lawmakers on Tuesday it had purchased hacking programs capable of intercepting communication on mobile devices and computers in 2012 from an Italian company, Hacking Team, but that it used them only to monitor agents from rival North Korea and for research purposes.

The revelation is sensitive because the NIS has a history of illegally tapping South Koreans’ private conversations. The NIS is planning to reveal to lawmakers the details of how the programs were used to quell suspicions that it had been unlawfully monitoring civilians.

In the note he left behind, the agent also said that he destroyed surveillance material on the activity of North Korean agents because the data had created “misunderstandings.”

Police officials, who had initially refused to release the details of the note, didn’t reveal the name of the agent or what his duties were for the NIS. Phone calls to the NIS office rang unanswered Sunday.

The controversy surrounding NIS emerged earlier this month when a searchable library of a massive email trove stolen from Hacking Team, released by WikiLeaks, showed that South Korean entities were among those dealing with the firm.

Two NIS directors who successively headed the spy service from 1999 to 2003 were convicted and received suspended prison terms for overseeing the monitoring of cellphone conversations of about 1,800 of South Korea’spolitical, corporate and media elite.

On Thursday, South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered a new trial for another former spy chief convicted of directing an online campaign to smear a main opposition candidate in the 2012 presidential election, won by current President Park Geun-hye.

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Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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In this Thursday, March 26, 2015 photo, Kim Kuk Gi, one of two South Korean men detained in North Korea on charges of spying, speaks in Pyongyang, North Korea. A South Korean government official confirmed Friday that the two are South Korean citizens but could not immediately explain how they entered the North and were detained. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

North Korea Sentences 2 South Koreans to Life on Spying Charges

Pictured above: Kim Kuk Gi, one of two South Korean men detained in North Korea on charges of spying, speaks in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

by the Associated Press


PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea’s Supreme Court on Tuesday sentenced two South Koreans to life in prison with labor after finding them guilty of spying for Seoul.

Kim Kuk-gi and Choe Chun-gil were convicted of state subversion and, under North Korean law, their sentences are final and cannot be appealed.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said prosecutors had sought the death penalty. State media earlier said the two were detained last year for allegedly collecting confidential state information and attempting to spread a “bourgeois lifestyle and culture” in the North at the order of South Korea’s spy agency and the U.S.

Analysts saw the sentences as retaliation against South Korea for the opening Tuesday of a U.N. office in Seoul tasked with monitoring human rights in North Korea. The North has repeatedly called the office a grave provocation.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry expressed regret over the verdicts and urged North Korea to immediately release the men. South Korean officials have denied that the two men were involved in espionage.

Analysts say past detentions of South Koreans and Americans on spying charges were attempts by the impoverished North to wrest outside concessions. But Tuesday’s sentences may have been connected to the opening in Seoul of the U.N. office.

“North Korea thinks South Korea is applying pressure on Pyongyang with the U.N. office so it’s responding by (sentencing) these South Korean nationals,” said analyst Cheong Seong-chang at the private Sejong Institute think tank in South Korea.

South Korean officials said Monday that North Korea cited the new U.N. human rights office last week when it announced a decision to boycott next month’s University Games in South Korea.

The U.N. office, the first of its kind, was proposed in a ground-breaking U.N. commission of inquiry report last year on North Korea’s rights record.

North Korea dismisses any outside criticism of its human rights record as a U.S.-led campaign to overthrow its government.

The U.N. office’s opening is likely to worsen already-tense relations between the two Koreas with Pyongyang expected to ratchet up harsh rhetoric against Seoul, said Lim Eul Chul, a North Korea expert at South Korea’s Kyungnam University. He said things will get worse if North Korea believes that South Korea is providing the U.N. office with information on North Korean human rights and arranging interviews with high-profile defectors.

The two Koreas have been divided along the world’s most heavily fortified border since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.


Associated Press writer Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Monday's Link Attack: Mary Hayashi, David Oh, Hee Young Park

Hayashi’s political career, legacy in jeopardy with charges looming
San Jose Mercury News

State Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi entered the political world as a survivor of a tormented childhood, losing an older sister at 17 to suicide and watching as her disgraced parents burned her sister’s clothes, cut her out of photos and never mentioned her name again.

Yet Hayashi quickly built a name for herself at the Capitol after becoming the first Korean-American woman to serve in the Legislature. She became part of the inner circles of two Assembly speakers. A magazine named her one of the 100 most influential Asian-Americans of the past decade.

Now, a new and puzzling source of shame is threatening to ground this once-rising East Bay Democrat and dash her plans to run for the state Senate: a bizarre grand theft charge that accuses her of shoplifting nearly $2,500 of clothes at San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus on Oct. 25.

While the case has embarrassed fellow lawmakers and could make Hayashi the first California lawmaker in 18 years to be ousted because of a felony conviction, it has focused new attention on what legislative staffers call Hayashi’s overly ambitious and sometimes erratic behavior.

Her criminal case has caused tongues to wag at the Capitol and jolted the tight-knit Korean-American community, where many view her as a role model.

“I’m saddened because she’s somebody that many in the Korean-American community have looked up to,” said Jiyon Yun, a Walnut Creek attorney. “She’s had so many accomplishments and contributed so much to so many efforts and projects, I hope this doesn’t take away from what she’s been working on.”

David Oh takes the cake in at-large Council race
Philadelphia Daily News

There will be no repeat of the nightmare four years ago, when attorney David Oh was ahead on election night for one of two City Council at-large seats set aside for the minority political party but lost after absentee ballots were tallied.

Oh today finally bested Al Taubenberger in last week’s election, after absentee, military and provisional ballots were counted. In the final tally, Oh led by 166 votes from election day ballots and absentee ballots. A count today of 755 provisional ballots, used on election day when there are questions about a voter’s registration, did not put Taubenberger ahead.

Oh said he was not surprised by the narrow margin, though he said it was unclear what impact a barrage of negative mailings, radio ads and robo-calls in the closing week of the campaign had on his campaign. That effort was run by a political action committee controlled by Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which supported another Republican in the race.

Hee Young Park wins LPGA finale
USA Today

Holding off some of the biggest names in women’s golf, unheralded Hee Young Park won the CME Group Titleholders on Sunday for her first career LPGA title.

Park, with a closing 70, finished at 9-under-par 279 to beat Paula Creamer and Sandra Gal by two shots at sun-splashed Grand Cypress Resort to win the LPGA tour’s season-ending event. Another shot back were Na Yeon Choi and world No. 2 Suzann Pettersen. Michelle Wie, world No. 3 Cristie Kerr and world No. 1 Yani Tseng, trying to win for the 12th time this season, made brief runs at the championship before finishing in a tie for sixth, seven shots behind.

Korean Tacos Bounce From LA to Seoul
Wall Street Journal

In an alley just off Garosoo-gil, the tree-lined street in Gangnam that has taken over from Apgujeong as the coolest place to be seen on weekends, is the three-month-old Grill5taco restaurant that has created its own version of Kogi’s fusion of Korean and Mexican foods.

Grill5taco was started by Ban Joo-hyung and Kim Hyun-chul and their original thought was to sell their tacos from trucks just like Kogi does. So they brought one over from the U.S. and hit the streets for a short time last year.

But the police kept slapping them with fines. Apparently, it’s OK to sell food from tents and from trucks that have permission to work in certain spots. But it’s against the law to just drive around wherever you want and sell food.

Mr. Kim said that’s when they decided to open the restaurant. “Garosoo-gil was the only neighborhood we considered,” he said.

Korea Still Sends Hundreds of Babies Abroad for Adoption
Chosun Ilbo

Korea is still the largest exporter of babies for adoption to the U.S., highlighting the need to strengthen child protection in the country. According to the 2011 Annual Adoption Report to Congress released Friday, out of the total of 2,047 foreign-born children adopted by U.S. families from October 2010 to September 2011, 734 or 36 percent were from Korea.

The Philippines was a distant second with 216, Uganda third with 196, India fourth with 168, and Ethiopia fifth with 126. Korea last topped the list in 2003 and since then it ranked fourth or fifth until it reclaimed first place this year.

Suspected N.Korean Spy Arrested After Posing as Defector
Chosun Ilbo

An alleged North Korean spy has been arrested after arriving in the country posing as a refugee.

The government said Saturday that a routine background check on the individual revealed he had been assigned by the North to conduct espionage activities in the South.

Authorities said the man entered Korea in April after traveling through China and Southeast Asian countries including Laos, Vietnam and Thailand in a bid to legitimately build his cover story as a defector.

A New Voice Grips South Korea With Plain Talk About Inequality and Justice
New York Times

Two days before Seoul elected a mayor last month, an unassuming man slipped into the campaign headquarters of Park Won-soon, an independent candidate. Amid flashing cameras, the man, Ahn Cheol-soo, a soft-spoken university dean who had earlier been seen as a contender for mayor himself, affirmed his support for Mr. Park, entrusted him with a written statement and then left.

“When we participate in an election, we citizens can become our own masters, principle can defeat irregularity and privilege, and common sense can drive out absurdity,” said Mr. Ahn’s statement, an open appeal to voters that quickly spread by way of Twitter and other social networks. “I’m going to the voting station early in the morning. Please join me.”

It was a pivotal moment in an election whose outcome has rocked South Korea. In a country where resentment of social and economic inequality is on the rise, and where many believe that their government serves the privileged rather than the common good, Mr. Ahn’s words — “participate,” “principle,” “common sense” — propelled younger voters to throw their support overwhelmingly behind Mr. Park, the first independent candidate to win South Korea’s second-most-influential elected office.

Korean-American businesses donate 600 turkeys
WNEM.com (Flint, Mich.)

Detroit police Chief Ralph Godbee says Korean-American businesses are donating 600 turkeys for distribution to the city’s needy.

Godbee says the 27th Korean-American Share Day is being marked with an event at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the department’s 12th Precinct station.

A Korean teacher cycling across the country stops in East Texas
KTRE ABC (Lufkin, Tex.)

It was a request like no other for the First Assembly of God. A 21-year old teacher from Korea cycled up to the church last Thursday, asking to spend the night in the front yard.

“He asked if he could put his tent up and stay the night to get some rest because he felt more safe staying at churches than he did just anywhere,” said First Assembly of God member, Lesa Rodgers.

“They told him yes he can camp here. So then, I come up. It was cold. So I said look just come on in the church. We weren’t going to leave him there,” said First Assembly of God pastor, Kenneth Reynolds.

Tungin Byun saved up money over the past year. Now, he’s using it to cycle around the US, stopping at churches for rest along the way.

North Korean celebrities are struggling because of the Hallyu Wave

North Korean celebrities are suffering significantly due to the Hallyu Wave, mainly because South Korean celebrities are gaining much popularity, while North Korean celebrities are becoming forgotten. Multiple insiders state, “People related to the North Korean entertainment business ignore the demands of the people and solely focus on Kim Jong Il‘s propaganda. People can expect to see the end of North Korea’s entertainment industry“.

North Korean youths who defected from the country were able to name several South Korean films including ‘Stairway to Heaven‘ and ‘Scent of a Man‘, while they were unable to recall any names of actors/actresses from a particular North Korean film.


N. Korea crowned world champs – unofficially
AFP via Google News

North Korea’s 1-0 win over Japan last week was not only a famous victory over their bitter rivals — it also made them the Unofficial Football World Champions, according to a tongue-in-cheek website.

The www.ufwc.co.uk site contends that the world title won by Spain in 2010 passed unofficially to Argentina after a friendly win, and then to Japan after the Blue Samurai beat Lionel Messi’s men in October last year.

So when Pak Nam Chol buried his 50th-minute header at Pyongyang’s bitterly cold Kim Il Sung Stadium last Tuesday, prompting rapturous celebrations, it was a goal that also put the secretive state unofficially on top of the world.


5 South Koreans Indicted For Spying For North Korea

Five South Koreans were indicted earlier this week for allegedly spying for North Korea, according to the Associated Press.

The five civilians — which included a former parliamentary aide — reportedly gave military secrets and other sensitive information to North Korea starting in the early 1990s, according to prosecutors.

Sensitive information included satellite photos of military bases, information on South Korean politicians as well as U.S. military manuals.

The JoongAng Daily reported that the alleged ringleader is Kim Duk-yong, a 48-year-old IT company president. According to prosecutors, Kim was brought to meet North Korean founder Kim Il Sung in August 1993, when he received direct orders to “found a leading group for the revolutionizing of South Korea.”

The businessman was a member of “Jusapa,” a group of South Koreans that supported Kim Il Sung’s juche (self-reliance) ideology from the mid-1980s.

Paperwork obtained by the investigators has shown that the businessman was given the code name Gwandokbong (a fictional mountain peak) after meeting Kim Il Sung.