DPRK goes after Hwang Jang-yop

UPDATE 2:  A third individual has been arrested for going after Mr. Hwang.  According to the AFP:

A third man has been arrested over a plot to assassinate a top ranking defector from North Korea, a report said Saturday.

The man, whose family name is Han, was a former North Korean agent who has been living in South Korea since the 1960s, Yonhap news agency said, quoting prosecutors.

Han was charged with seeking to trace Hwang’s address in a plot to assassinate him, Yonhap said.

Han was recruited said to have been recruited by North Korean agents in 2000, who helped him reunite his family members living in the North.

North Korea has denied involvement in the bid to assassinate Hwang, accusing Seoul of inventing the story to fuel tension.

UPDATE 1:  Seoul convicted the two North Koreans to ten years in prison.  According to the Associated Press:

The Seoul Central District Court handed down 10-year sentences to each of the men after convicting them of violating South Korea’s National Security Law.

The defendants – Kim Myong Ho and Dong Myong Kwan – entered the packed courtroom under heavy security, handcuffed and wearing beige prison clothes. They have seven days to appeal the verdict.

They were arrested in Seoul in April for allegedly planning to kill Hwang Jang-yop, a former senior member of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party who defected to South Korea in 1997. North Korea has denied the assassination plot, accusing South Korea of staging it to intensify anti-Pyongyang sentiment.

The North Koreans posed as ordinary defectors and told investigators they were ordered to report back to Pyongyang on Hwang’s activities in Seoul and to prepare to “slit the betrayer’s throat,” prosecutors have said.

“The efforts to try to locate Hwang’s residence to plot to kill him … is a dangerous act undermining social security and order that must be condemned,” judge Cho Han-chang said.

The defendants did not speak throughout the trial, except when giving barely audible answers to the judge’s questions about their date of birth and place of origin. Their lips were pursed throughout the trial and they looked away from the proceedings.

The men were led away immediately after the verdict was read. Defendants normally are not given time or opportunity to comment on the verdict, court spokesman Kim Sang-woo said.

“If they disagree with the sentencing they can simply file an appeal,” Kim said.

The defendants confessed in their statements to having committed all of the acts they have been charged for and have since shown much remorse, the judge said.

“They have admitted to all of their crimes and even showed a human side, worrying about the safety of their families in North Korea,” Cho said.

High-profile defectors are believed to be key targets for assassination plots. In 1997, a nephew of one of Kim Jong Il’s former wives was killed outside a Seoul apartment, 15 years after defecting to the South. Officials never caught the assailants but believe they were North Korean agents.

Kim Jong Il reportedly has vowed revenge for Hwang’s defection.

The North Koreans made their way from Yanji, China, to Thailand posing as defectors. Thai authorities deported one to South Korea in January and the other in February, according to prosecutors.

ORIGINAL POST: According to the BBC:

South Korea says it has uncovered a plot to assassinate the most senior official ever to have defected from Communist North Korea.

Two North Koreans, said to have been posing as defectors themselves, have been arrested on suspicion of being on a mission to kill Hwang Jang-yop.

Mr Hwang, 87, once a close confidant of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, defected to the South in 1997.

Pyongyang’s official government website had recently threatened him with death.

The alleged plot to kill Mr Hwang was uncovered when the two men, named by the Yonhap news agency as Kim and Tong, crossed into South Korea from Thailand earlier this year, posing as defectors themselves.

They were questioned by South Korean officials during the debriefing sessions that await all North Korean refugees who make it to Seoul.

A unnamed senior official at Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office told reporters they had said their orders were to “slit the betrayer’s throat”, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Mr Hwang, who was once the secretary of the North Korean Workers’ Party, has said he left the country after witnessing the impact of disastrous economic policies which led to widespread famine in the 1990s.

He left close family members behind, many of whom are reported to have been sent to labour camps.

Mr Hwang lives under heavy police protection at an undisclosed location and has remained a harsh critic of Pyongyang.

The Washington Post adds more:

Compounding the perception of an imminent threat from the North, the South’s intelligence service and prosecutors gave a rare public account of a foiled plot.

They said two North Korean army majors defected through Thailand, arriving in South Korea in January and February. But inconsistencies were found in their stories, and the men said under interrogation that they intended to kill Hwang Jang Yop, 87, a former chairman of North Korea’s legislature, the Supreme People’s Assembly.

“The men tried to kill themselves during the interrogation session,” said a spokesman for Seoul prosecutors.

Since defecting in 1997, Hwang has been a thorn in the side of North Korea, publicly condemning the nuclear-armed dictatorship of Kim Jong Il. In recent months, he has traveled to Washington and Tokyo to share his views on strategic thinking in Pyongyang.

Complaining about such trips, North Korea’s Uriminzokkiri Web site warned Hwang that “traitors have always been slaughtered with knives.” But Pyongyang did not comment on the allegation that it had sent assassins to kill him.

North Korea has a record of assassinating its opponents abroad. The wife of South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee was fatally shot in 1974. Seoul says that Kim personally ordered the killings of several members of South Korea’s government in Burma in 1983 and the destruction of a civil airliner in 1987, killing 115.

Read the full stories here:
North Korea ‘plotted to kill high profile defector’
BBC
4/21/2010

South Korea says it foiled assassination plot by North
Washington Post
Christian Oliver
4/22/2010

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