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(LEAD) N. Korean spies get 10-year jail terms for assassination plot

All Headlines 11:59 July 01, 2010

(ATTN: ADDS more details and backgrounds in 6-7 paras)
By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, July 1 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court Thursday sentenced two North Korean spies to a 10-year jail term for attempting to assassinate a high-profile North Korean defector critical of the communist North and its top leader.

The two defendants, known only as Kim, 36, and Tong, 34, were arrested in April on charges of posing as fugitives in a plot to kill Hwang Jang-yop, former secretary of the North's ruling Workers' Party and chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly.

The Seoul Central District Court said that confessions and statements from Kim and Tong regarding motives for their fake defections, planned crimes, infiltration routes and personal careers are all convincing enough to convict them of violating the National Security Law.

"It is also acknowledged that the residence of Hwang is a classified information and the figures contacted by Kim and Tong in China are members of North Korea or other anti-state organizations," said the court.

The court also noted that Hwang's defection to the South is "a symbol of South Korean system's superiority" and should they succeed in settling down here, it could have been a major threat to the safety of Hwang considering their military training.

Prosecutors had demanded a 15-year imprisonment for each of the defendants who pleaded guilty to the charges during the trial.

The court said it has mitigated their jail terms, as the assassination attempts were not actually carried out and they cooperated in the investigation.

The two, both former North Korean military officers, arrived in Seoul last December disguised as defectors on orders by the North's reconnaissance unit in charge of espionage operations against South Korea.

Hwang, 88, defected to South Korea in 1997 and has received repeated death threats for criticizing his former boss, Kim Jong-il. The location of his residence is not publicly known, and South Korean police keep him under round-the-clock surveillance.


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