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Thursday, June 23, 2011     GET REAL

North Korea’s elite spy agency now seen controlling diplomacy with the South

By Lee Jong-Heon, special from

SEOUL — North Korea’s top military intelligence agency has supplanted normal Party and government angencies and taken control of diplomatic ties with South Korea, a government source here said. The move was said to explain last year’s extreme military provocations against the South and an apparent ambush of a recent diplomatic initiative by Seoul.


Lt. Gen. Kim Yong-Chol, front left, escorts North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, center, during his visit to Army Unit 586. Yonghap News
The growing influence of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB) of the People’s Army means the North is likely to attempt a round of efforts to jeopardize peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and the region, military officials warned.

The RGB, the North’s top intelligence organization, is believed to have masterminded the deadly torpedo attack in March last year and the bombardment of a South Korean border island last November along with a series of cyber attacks.

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The RGB is headed by Kim Yong-Chol, one of the closest confidants of Kim Jong-Il, and is considered as the most hawkish leader in the powerful military. Kim Yong-Chol and the RGB were put last August on the U.S. list of sanctions for their illicit activities such as sale of arms, narcotics, and tobacco.

Early this month, the North disclosed secret meetings in Beijing with the South, claiming Seoul “begged” for inter-Korean summit talks and “disgraced” North Koreans by offering “envelopes of cash” in return for agreeing to a summit.

The surprising disclosure of a meeting thought to have been orchestrated by the RBG has effectively closed the window of opportunity for an inter-Korean summit and governmental dialogue before conservative President Lee Myung-Bak leaves office in early 2013.

After Seoul denied offering cash, saying the meeting was aimed at winning the North’s apology for last year’s two deadly attacks, the North threatened to reveal audio-taped records of secret talks, which could greatly embarrass Lee if they really exist.

“The RBG seems to have led a North Korean mission that held last month’s secret meeting with the South,” the source said. In the past, the CPRF or the APPC represented the North’s mission to such meetings, he said.

In past years, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (CPRF) under the Workers’ Party played the leading role in dealing with South Korea, supported by the quasi-government organ of the Asia Pacific Peace Committee (APPC).

Recently, however, the two offices have been sidelined as the RGB has a greater voice in the North’s handing with the South, the source said.

“The RGB seems to be masterminding the country’s recent round of saber-rattling campaign against the South,” he said.

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