N. Korea sends 80,000 messages annually to agents in South

Special to World
Friday, October 29, 2004

North Korea has continued to send instructions through various communication channels and Internet sites to its espionage agents and pro-communist activists in South Korea, intelligence sources say.

Communications from North Korea to its operatives in the South remain steady at around 80,000 messages annually, South Korean officials said.

At the same time, only two to four agents were nabbed in the country during each of the last two years, highlighting a weakened ideological stance in South Korea against the espionage offensive by its communist neighbor, the sources said.

Only 14 North Korean agents have been arrested during the past four years, said opposition lawmaker Kwon Young-Se, a member of the Parliamentary Information Committee, citing an intelligence report. The figure was three in 2000, four in 2001, two in 2002 and two in 2003, compared to 20 in 1998 and 15 in 1999.

Directives from the North involving espionage activities in the South increased in 2001. It was an apparent bid to use the reconciliation mood following of the 2000 inter-Korean summit meeting to boost its espionage activities in the South, one official said.

The North's messages to spy vessels targeting the South jumped tenfold between 2000 and 2003, he said. More than 300 messages were coded by random numerical tables last year and could not be deciphered.

Instructions from North Korea to its South Korean-based spies mostly focused on gathering information on military installations and collecting public opinion, the source said.

The comment came as South Korea's government and ruling party have pushed to abolish the country's National Security Law that bans pro-communist activities.

The ruling Uri Party introduced legislation in Parliament last week to kill the country's decades-old anti-Communist law, calling it an anachronism dating back to the Cold War.

Under the law, which has long been considered as a bulwark against Communism, a South Korean could be sentenced to prison if convicted of praising an "anti-state organization," which refers to North Korea.

The ruling party said the 299-member National Assembly would approve the measures before its session closes Dec. 9. With a majority 151 seats, it has the votes needed to pass the bills on its own.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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