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Spy agency detains N. Korean defector for assassination plot

All Headlines 10:33 September 16, 2011

SEOUL, Sept. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's spy agency has detained a North Korean defector for an alleged assassination attempt against a fellow defector acting as an anti-North Korean activist, an intelligence official said Friday.

The suspect, identified by his last name Ahn in his 40s, was taken into custody for plotting to kill Park Sang-hak, who has led a high-profile campaign to send anti-Pyongyang leaflets into the North for years.

The leaflets include stories of the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East in hopes of inspiring North Koreans to eventually rise up against North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

The North has bristled at any outside criticism of its leader and threatened to open fire over the propaganda activity in recent months.

Park said the suspect phoned him to meet in a Seoul subway station earlier this month by offering to help his leafleting campaign.

However, Park did not show up at the meeting after being tipped by South Korea's National Intelligence Service on the suspect's possible assassination attempt.

The suspect was arrested by intelligence officials at the subway station and is being questioned whether he acted on North Korea's order.

The suspect, who served in the special forces before defecting to the South, began to call Park in February after disappearing for about five to six years. He was also carrying a poisoning device when he was arrested.

The spy agency plans to refer the case to prosecutors in coming weeks.

The arrest came less than two weeks after a South Korean missionary died in the Chinese border city of Dandong just across from North Korea after suddenly collapsing in the street.

Some South Koreans claimed that the missionary was poisoned to death by a North Korean agent, though an autopsy found no poison in his body.

The North has said it opposes all forms of terrorism, though it has a track record of terrorist attacks against South Korea.

In July last year, two North Korean agents were sentenced to 10 years in prison by a court on charges of attempting to assassinate Hwang Jang-yop, the former secretary of the North's ruling Workers' Party.

South Korea also arrested another North Korean spy a month later on the same charges of plotting to kill Hwang.

Hwang, the highest official ever defected to the South and a vocal critic of the North Korean leader, died from heart failure late last year.


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