Updated January. 22, 2013 04:05
A former North Korean defector working for the Seoul city government has been caught spying for North Korea. This clearly shows Pyongyangs manipulation of former defectors in South Korea and loopholes in the South`s intelligence and national security postures. The suspect had worked for the city as a contracted worker since June 2011 and allegedly gave to Pyongyang a list of former defectors residing in Seoul and their data on resettling in South Korea. The National Intelligence Service in Seoul presumes that he collected personal information on roughly 10,000 former defectors in the capital while providing medical services for low-income households. As a spy under the guise of a city official for more than 18 months, he was able to elude South Korean intelligence and police, which became unaware of his identity doing the North`s bidding.
In the past, Pyongyang tried to hide defectors and even banned the term North Korean defectors. Since the emergence of leader Kim Jong Un, the communist regime brought back former defectors from South Korea, or "reverse defectors," and used them as a propaganda tool. Three former defectors who returned to North Korea -- Park Jeong-sook, Kim Kwang-hyeok and Goh Jong-nam -- claimed in a news conference in Pyongyang in June and November last year that they returned to the North because they could no longer live in the corrupt South. The Stalinist country allegedly blackmailed them into returning, threatening to punish their families left in the North. Pyongyang threatens its people to stop them from escaping, but has admitted to the existence of defectors.
North Korea has attempted to kill defectors who are either successful in the South or work as anti-North Korea activists. A North Korean agent tried to assassinate Hwang Jang-yop, the highest-ranking North Korean official to defect to the South, and a similar attempt was made on Park Sang-hak, president of Fighters for a Free North Korea. The North keeps sending spies to the South disguised as defectors, and is using all possible means to cause chaos in its southern neighbor by using 24,000 defectors in the South. Highly trained spies sent to the South are well prepared to pass lie detector tests to prevent them from being detected. Seoul needs to make the defector verification process more thorough to nip the threat to national security in the bud.
Defectors risked their lives to enjoy freedom in South Korea. If the recent spy case heightens suspicion of defectors in the South, this will further alienate them. To prevent espionage by North Korea, South Koreans should accept defectors with an open heart and help them resettle. Also important is the protection of personal information, including the IDs and addresses of defectors, to prevent Pyongyang from taking revenge on them. Defectors should report suspicious people to intelligence authorities to prevent North Korean spying in the South.