Thu, Sep 06, 2018 - Page 5 News List

FEATURE: S Korean spy shares how he met with Kim Jong-il

AFP, SEOUL

In 1997, after several trips to the North, he was taken to the Paekhwawon Guest House in Pyongyang, where Kim Jong-il was as usual working by night, for a 30-minute meeting with the leader himself, the recorder hidden in his urethra.

Kim Jong-il did not bother to shake hands when he entered the room, Park said, which focused on cashing in the ceramics.

“His voice was a bit husky,” Park said. “Far from being nervous for fear of being exposed, I felt rather relieved because it meant I had won the North’s complete trust.”

Kim Jong-il also expressed a keen interest in the South’s upcoming presidential poll, Park said.

Cross-border military crises have tended to occur in election years in the South, helping shift undecided votes toward conservatives, a phenomenon known as “the North Wind” in the South.

Ahead of the 1997 presidential poll, Park said, North Korean officials told him three supporters of then-conservative presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang had asked them to mount an armed attack days before polling.

In a Beijing hotel room, Park said, “with my own eyes, I saw the North Koreans counting wads of dollars in their hotel room that they received from the South Koreans,” allegedly in exchange for the attack. “There were 36 bundles, each of them US$100,000.”

He reported his findings to his ANSP bosses and the campaign of then-liberal presidential candidate Kim Dae-jung. In the end there was no incident and Kim secured a narrow victory.

The trio of Lee supporters were later convicted of breaking the South’s National Security Law, which bans contact with the North, but were acquitted on appeal to the Supreme Court after Park refused to testify.

His cover blown, Park was fired by the spy agency and moved to China, spending much of his time on the golf course.

The ANSP, now known as the National Intelligence Service, declined to comment on Park’s allegations.

After South Korea’s conservatives returned to power, they brought in a new spy chief and Park was arrested in Seoul in 2010 and convicted of passing classified information to the North, despite insisting he conveyed only low-level intelligence to win Pyongyang’s confidence.

“I was in solitary confinement for six years,” he said, calling his imprisonment politically motivated.

His story provides a glimpse into a “suspected, but so far inaccessible, truth” in inter-Korean relations, film critic Lee Yong-cheol wrote in Cine21 magazine.

If the winds of geopolitics once again shift and leave him on the wrong side, Park has an insurance policy — the recordings he made of his meetings with Kim Jong-il, Jang Song-thaek and other officials.

He said they were not available when he was arrested in 2010, but now he is keeping them safe “somewhere in a foreign country.”

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