Three South Koreans affiliated with the minor Progressive Party and a farmers’ group in Jeju are under investigation for allegedly establishing an underground network that collaborated with North Korean agents for over five years.
Police confirmed Monday that it conducted a raid on the homes and offices of a former senior official of the small leftist Progressive Party branch in Jeju, a current senior official of the party and the secretary-general of the Korean Peasants League’s Jeju branch last November and December for alleged violation of the National Security Act. The raid was conducted in coordination with the National Intelligence Service (NIS).
The Jeju Provincial Police Agency said it is in the process of conducting digital forensic analysis on the items seized, including mobile phones and computers.
In July 2017, the former Progressive Party official is suspected of having met with a North Korean agent from its ruling Workers’ Party’s Cultural Exchange Bureau — a North Korean espionage department that recruits South Korean sympathetic to Pyongyang — in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cultural Exchange Bureau was formerly known as the 225th Bureau, responsible for training agents to infiltrate South Korea and establish underground political organizations aimed at spreading unrest.
This individual reportedly received several days of training by the North Korean agent on establishing an underground organization, its operation plan and communications methods.
He allegedly recruited two others to form an underground organization that allegedly carried out orders from North Korea for the past several years through last November to promote antigovernment activities.
Police claim that other directives included a push for the suspension of joint exercises between Seoul and Washington and opposition to advanced weapons systems from the United States, based on their digital forensic analysis of the seized items.
The individuals are also accused of praising the North Korean regime at a movie screening in February 2019.
On Nov. 9, the NIS requested cooperation from the Jeju police to search the former party official’s home and the raid expanded to the two other individual’s homes and office on Dec. 19.
They are accused of violating Article 7 of the National Security Act, which stipulates that a person who praises, incites or propagates the activities of an antigovernment organization can be punished by imprisonment for up to seven years. They are also accused of having violated Article 8 of the Security Act, which punishes by imprisonment for up to ten years individuals who make contact, including meetings or correspondence, with a member of an antigovernment organization or a person who has received an order from it.
The three individuals have denied the allegations and refused to answer NIS summons for questioning.
“Meeting a North Korean agent in Cambodia in itself is a violation of the National Security Act,” said a police official Monday.
Depending on the results of the NIS analysis of the confiscated items, the scope of the investigation may be expanded. The code name of their underground organization is reportedly written on the documents obtained by the police and the NIS.
Separately, the NIS and prosecutors also conducted multiple raids on individuals in Jeju, Seoul, South Gyeongsang and North Jeolla suspected to have formed a pro-North, antigovernment group.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]