North Korea: Can South Korea’s Decapitation Unit take out Kim Jong-un?

4 10 2017

Silmido(ABC Radio’s Tell Me Straight’s Yasmin Parry and Will Ockenden, 30 Septemebr 2017) Imagine a squad of thousands of military soldiers flying helicopters and planes through the night towards North Korea with one job — to assassinate the leader, Kim Jong-un.

It sounds like the plot of a film, or a Twitter threat from US President Donald Trump, but it’s a legitimate South Korean defence strategy.

This month, the South Korean Defence Minister, Song Young-moo, announced a special forces squad, called the Decapitation Unit, would be reformed by the end of the year.

Reformed? Yep, this is the second iteration of a Kill Kim assassination squad.

A motley band of misfits were trained back in the 1970s to take out Mr Kim’s grandfather, but why try again when last time everything went horrifically wrong?

Miscreant hit squad

In 1971, the first Decapitation Unit was formed with the intention of marching north to slit the throat of Kim Il-sung, the then North Korean leader.

Like the plot of the Suicide Squad comic book series, the group was made up of former criminals and thugs plucked from the streets of Seoul.

The government gave them an irresistible offer — the promise of a new life and a clean slate if they completed their mission.

According to Leonid Petrov, a Korea expert from the Australian National University, the special unit was isolated for years on an island called Silmido.

The squad of misfits trained in gruelling conditions, some dying along the way.

But when the time grew close for them to complete their task, the South Korean government called the whole thing off.

“The whole mission was aborted because, well, they’re not professionals,” Dr Petrov said.

“They were still criminals, and they had no idea what’s going on in North Korea so they were doomed to failure.”

The government realised there was no way men from the South could infiltrate the North undetected.

“They already speak completely different dialects, they don’t understand each other, they don’t travel, they don’t visit each other,” Dr Petrov said.

“At that time the satellites wouldn’t provide them with maps and Google Earth didn’t exist at that time.

“They would immediately be identified, arrested, and potentially used in the counter-propaganda war against South Korea.”

Weapons who knew too much

But in their years of training, the men had become trained assassins, and the South Korean rulers feared they would turn rogue.

Dr Petrov said the South Korean guards on the island began slaughtering the agents one after another.

“They were shot and eliminated because they knew too much,” Dr Petrov said.

But when the South Korean guerrillas realised their fate, they rebelled.

The men turned on their guards and sailed a boat back to mainland South Korea.

They landed on the peninsula, hijacked a bus and drove towards the capital, but at one of the road blocks they were annihilated.

For many years, South Koreans knew nothing of the assassination plans and the ensuing chaos, which was severely embarrassing for the then South Korean dictatorship.

It was not until South Korea’s democratisation in the 1990s, and the release of the 2003 film Silmido, that people become widely aware of the story.

“Nobody knew that the South Koreans were doing exactly the same thing that North Koreans would do,” Dr Petrov said.

“But they’re Koreans — they’re brothers and sisters — they live in the constant fear of the resumption of the hostilities and it’s a slow motion civil war.”

Getting the gang back together

Despite everything that went wrong with the Decapitation Unit in the 1970s, the South Korean Government now plans to recreate it.

The South Korean Defence Minister said 2,000 to 4,000 soldiers would be assembled by year’s end and the military was already “retooling” helicopters and transport planes to penetrate North Korean airspace at night.

It sounds like a daring plan, but Dr Petrov said it was nothing but propaganda.

“Everyone in South Korea understands that the South Koreans cannot do much or anything successful in terms of deposing or dethroning the regime of Kim Jong-un, simply because they don’t know how it works. It’s a black box,” he said.

“When South Korean parliamentarians were asked why on Earth they decided to come up with this plan, which didn’t work before, they simply said it was the intention to scare the North Korean regime, because North Koreans have nuclear weapons that South Koreans don’t.”

One of the ways South Korea can respond is with a propaganda campaign, setting up a Decapitation Unit so the North Korean leadership would have to live in constant fear.

Assassination doomed to fail

According to Dr Petrov, there are numerous reasons a hit on Mr Kim by the South Koreans would be impossible.

“It is a fantasy, it’s science fiction. Mission impossible,” he said.

He said the first problem was very few people knew where the North Korean leader was at any given moment.

“Kim Jong-un lives like his father and his grandfather — underground in numerous palaces which are linked by underground tunnel highways.

“He periodically pops up on launching pads to oversee the rockets, have a photo session, meet with peasants and workers and then disappear again,” Dr Petrov said.

Second, the North Korean regime is a “perfect dictatorship”, with many layers of defence.

“The system in North Korea is designed to protect the leadership in such a way that even their own security apparatus people don’t know where the leader is,” Dr Petrov said.

“When they drive the car with high-ranking leaders, there’s a system of block posts that stop the car and change the driver, so that every driver doesn’t know where the journey is going to stop.”

The third reason is the South Korean army is unprepared to take on such a task.

“The South Korean army counts 675,000 people, of which most are conscripts, which means they’re mama’s boys, university students who are not prepared to sacrifice their life for some ideological conflict which has been going on in Korea for decades,” Dr Petrov said.

Special units do exist and are well trained, but it is unlikely they would be effective on enemy territory given they know little about the security infrastructure underground, he said.

“Maybe a dozen of highly trained spies can cross the border, can infiltrate, but again it will be some comical situations when they wouldn’t know the reality of North Korean life. They will be immediately identified, embarrassed,” Dr Petrov said.

“They’re like aliens visiting the Earth. Hello Earthlings!”

With an attempt on Mr Kim’s life unlikely, the leader’s lifestyle is likely to kill him first, Dr Petrov said.

“Kim Jong-un is more likely to die of an overdose of expensive Cognac or cheese or obesity or high blood pressure, but not from a South Korean bullet,” he said.

You can listed to the original ABC Radio podcast of this interview here…

Advertisements




South Korean spy arrested in Pyongyang

8 11 2013

north korean police car(BY OLIVER HOTHAM , NKNews.org, NOVEMBER 7, 2013A South Korean spy has been apprehended in Pyongyang, the North Korean Ministry of State Security announced to the Korea Central News Agency on Thursday. The man, who initially claimed to be a Chinese resident of North Korea, eventually confessed that he was a South Korean who had entered North Korea from a third country, the KCNA said, and had been disguising himself as a “religionist”.

KCNA reported that the Ministry of State Security’s initial investigation indicated “that he was engaged in anti-DPRK espionage and plot-breeding activities in a third country bordering the DPRK for nearly six years”. The spy allegedly “entered the DPRK to rally dishonest elements within the boundary of the DPRK and use them for undermining the stability of the social system in the DPRK,” according to the report, and the “an institution for state security is now intensifying investigation”.

[…] This is not the first time the DPRK has alleged that religious missionaries in the DPRK were engaging in anti-state activities. Kenneth Bae, who was arrested in November 2012 when he was acting as a missionary in North Korea, was sentenced to 15 years hard labour for an alleged plot to overthrow the North Korean state called “Operation Jericho”.

The KCNA’s article on Bae’s trial reported that: ”When last in America and South Korea, Kenneth Bae went to several churches and preached about the need for North Korea’s immediate collapse.” North Korea claims Bae had a following of “1,500 people,” and worked with other South Korean missionaries to create an “anti-government coalition.”

Leonid A. Petrov, a Korean studies expert at the Australian National University told NK News that it is natural for spy-related stories to come out: “States and nations divided by civil war always spy against each other – it would be strange if North and South Korea, who share the language and culture, were not doing the same”.

“Both regimes claim exclusive legitimacy on the peninsula and won’t compromise,” he continued. “Spying operations of Seoul and Pyongyang against each other will cease only when Korea is unified, but this would also mean a victory for one and the demise for another regime”.

North Korean spies are often caught in the Republic of Korea. In 2010 DPRK spies were dispatched – and caught – trying to kill high level defector Hwang Jang Yop.

See the full text of this article here…





North Korea to return six detained South Korean citizens

24 10 2013

dmz-from-north-korea_1(BY CHAD O’CARROLL , NK News, OCTOBER 24, 2013) North Korea announced on Thursday that six South Koreans who had been detained for illegally entering North Korean territory would be soon be released via the DMZ Panmunjom truce village.

“The North sent an official notice that the six will be returned at the neutral truce village of Panmunjom Friday afternoon,” an anonymous Minister of Unification official was quoted as saying Thursday by South Korea’s Yonhap News.

Mysteriously, the unification ministry source said that four of the six detainees had been previously mentioned by North Korean state media in February 2010, suggesting that at least part of the group may have been in North Korea for several years.

“A relevant institution of the DPRK recently detained four south Koreans who illegally entered it. They are now under investigation by the institution,” a short Korea Central News Agency bulletin said on February 26, 2010.

[…]

One expert told NK News that the news could be Pyongyang’s way of indicating a desire to warm inter-Korean relations, which despite improving in summer have been cooling of late.

“North Korea’s decision to release 6 detained South Koreans is another test for ROK President Park Geun-Hye’s “trustpolitik”. Now it will be up to Seoul whether to reciprocate, using this initiative as opportunity for reopening dialogue, trade and reconciliation” Leonid Petrov, a researcher at Australia National University, told NK News.

“49 North Korean spies have been caught in South Korea in the last decade, 4 of them just this year. Park Geun-Hye could pardon and deport them to the North as a symbolic sign of trust-building aimed at improving inter-Korean relations,” Petrov added, also pointing out that, “South Korea claims that about 500 of ROK citizens – most of them fishermen – are being held by North Korea: If Kim Jong-Un is serious about mending bridges with the South, he should let those people go or, at least, permit communication with them.”

South Korea’s National Security Law makes it illegal for South Korean nationals to make unauthorized contact with North Korea or enter North Korean territory. Normally, North Korean law also forbids South Koreans from entering DPRK territory.

In July 2012 68 year old South Korean national Ro Su-hui was arrested after walking from North to South Korea at Panmunjom. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment for illegally entering North Korea and ”benefiting the enemy”.

See the full text of this article here...





US Citizen Jailed in North Korea Makes Fresh Plea for Help

14 08 2013

Kenneth Bae_hospital(The Voice of America News, 13 August 2013)

A Korean-American imprisoned in North Korea has made a fresh appeal to the United States, saying Washington should send a high-ranking official to Pyongyang to request his release.

Kenneth Bae made the plea in an interview conducted last week and published Tuesday by the Chosun Sinbo, a Japan-based newspaper known for its pro-North Korean stance.

In the interview, Bae said he has been transferred to a hospital from a prison camp, where he had only just begun serving 15 years of hard labor after being convicted of state subversion.

The 45-year-old said his health has deteriorated, specifically mentioning that he was under-nourished and had back problems. The paper said he has lost 23 kilograms. His family said he also suffers from kidney stones, vision, heart and liver problems.

The U.S. State Department on Monday again appealed for the immediate release of Bae, who was convicted in April of trying to topple the Pyongyang government.

Korea analyst Leonid Petrov said that in the current political climate, North Korea is unlikely to simply release Bae on humanitarian grounds, as the U.S. has requested. ‘It theoretically is possible, but practically I doubt it is going to happen without any clear prospects of improvements in relations with the United States,’ he said.

North Korea has in the past tried to use the plight of jailed Americans to convince the U.S. to make diplomatic concessions. Despite the North’s insistence it will not use Bae as a bargaining chip, some regional analysts think he is being used to coax the U.S. into dialogue.

But Bae’s case comes at a tricky time diplomatically, with Washington tightening sanctions against North Korea in response to its latest nuclear and missile tests. Petrov, who is with the Australian National University, said the U.S. is unlikely to move away from this posture.

‘The U.S. government is not interested in improving relations with the rogue state, with the self-proclaimed nuclear power, the one who threatens peace and stability in the region, looking at it from the Washington perspective,’ said Petrov.

Last month, there were rumors that ex-U.S. President Jimmy Carter may travel to North Korea to secure Bae’s release, as he did with a jailed Christian activist in 2010. A Carter spokesman later said there were no plans to make such a trip.

Stephen Noerper with the Asia Society tells VOA that Carter might, in fact, be able to win Bae’s release. But he says such a trip is unlikely, in part because it would obviously serve the interests of North Korean leadership. ‘That’s what the North Koreans are looking for in terms of a legitimizer for their new leader Kim Jong Un. And the Americans, I think, are very reticent to provide that,’ he said.

In the past, North Korean state media have portrayed visits by high-ranking U.S. officials and former presidents as trips to pay respects to the country’s authoritarian leaders.

Bae was visited by last week by a diplomat from Sweden, which represents U.S. interests in North Korea. The Swedish Foreign Ministry said Bae was well, ‘under the circumstances,’ and promised to keep checking regularly on his health.





All eyes on Kim Jong-un after North Korea gives 15 years’ hard labor to US citizen

3 05 2013

Kenneth Bae Jun-Ho(By Steven Borowiec, Christian Science Monitor, 2 May 2013)

North Korea says US citizen Kenneth Bae was conspiring to overthrow the regime. But analysts say the North is likely to use him as a new bargaining chip.

North Korea sentenced a US citizen to 15 years of hard labor today, after finding him guilty of crimes against the state. The move seems yet another in a series of efforts to gain interaction, attention or concessions from the US, some analysts believe.

Kenneth Bae was taken into custody in November while leading a legal tour in North Korea, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. He was tried on April 30, and found guilty of unspecified “hostile acts” against the North Korean state. A number of Americans have been detained and sentenced in the past few years but the 15-year sentence is the longest given to a US citizen there.

The country’s young leader Kim Jong-un has taken a number of bold and provocative positions since taking over from his father last year, of which this is the latest. The direction Mr. Kim takes now – and the US response – may start to set a deeper pattern for Kim’s rule and for US-North Korean relations.

“The question is whether or not the US will be willing to intervene on behalf of a citizen, given the high tensions, and whether it will kowtow to a repressive state that is known for human rights violations,” says Leonid Petrov, a researcher in Korean studies at Australian National University.

Mr. Bae, a tour operator born Pae Jun-ho in South Korea, became a US citizen more than two decades ago and has lived in Washington state. He had reportedly led a number of tours to North Korea previously, without incident.

North Korean reports indicated that Bae, who has been described as a devout Christian in Western media reports, was found with some photographs or other materials that North Korean authorities said showed Bae’s desire to overthrow the Kim regime.

“In the process of investigation he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] with hostility toward it,” according to the official KCNA news agency.

Tensions have been high on the Korean peninsula following North Korea’s third nuclear test on Feb. 12, and two-months of an annual US-South Korea military exercise that ended April 30. Although tensions were expected to cool a bit after the end of the drills, analysts worry the sentence could reignite them. Alternatively, many speculate that North Korea is hoping to use Bae as a bargaining chip to secure aid.

Though the US and North have no formal diplomatic ties, the North has indicated it is interested in dialogue with Washington. The impoverished country prone to food shortage, has recently reached out to Mongolia for food aid. The US says it is open to dialogue but on condition North Korea gives up its nuclear ambitions, which Pyongyang sees as a non-starter.

Five other US citizens have been detained in North Korea since 2009 and all were eventually released, according to the Associated Press. American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were charged with “hostile acts” after being arrested by North Korean border patrols in 2009 while reporting along the border with China. They were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor, but were pardoned and released after former President Bill Clinton, who is viewed with relative favor in Pyongyang, traveled to North Korea and met with then-leader Kim Jong-il.

Staff from the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang met with Bae on the behalf of the US, but were unable to secure his release. In January, Google executive Eric Schmidt and former governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson reportedly asked to meet with Bae when they traveled to North Korea, though were not permitted to do so.

With his Swiss prep-school education and reported Western-style tastes and hobbies, some analysts suggested after Kim took power in January 2011 that he could be the leader to bring North Korea out of isolation, possibly enact China-style economic reforms, and begin to engage the outside world.

“He’s very proactive, both politically and economically, and very outward looking. He has given public speeches, which is different from his father. Every month, he brings some kind of surprise,” says Petrov.

Though Kim’s style may be different, the substance of North Korea’s leadership has remained the same. The past two months have seen some of the most aggressive rhetoric ever from North Korea, including a threat of a preemptive nuclear strike on the US, though it is not believed to be technically capable of such an attack.

Kim’s international antics are doing nothing to bring it closer to making progress in improving North Korea’s woeful economy. If Kim genuinely wants to make progress on its professed goals, he says, the regime has to start looking inward.

“It’s time for North Korea to focus on its domestic affairs, particularly on its goals of becoming a state with both strong defense and a strong economy,” says Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean studies in Seoul.





Cyber attacks may spark new war in Korea

8 06 2012

(Leonid Petrov, 38 North, 9 July 2013) Those who are familiar with Len Wiseman’s 2007 film “Live Free or Die Hard” (“Die Hard 4.0”) will recall the actor Bruce Willis taking on a gang of cyber terrorists intent on hacking FBI computers. At one point, the arch-villain Gabriel orders a crew of hackers to start a “fire sale” by taking control of the stock market and transportation grids. The attack is designed to target the nation’s reliance on computer controls, sending the public into a panic and presenting us with an almost credible sci-fi plot. The reality of today’s world shows that cyber-terrorism, if left unchecked, might be used not only by individuals or extremist groups, but by hostile governments on the offensive.

The Korean peninsula is now quickly turning into a place where a singular cyber-attack might spark a full-fledged conflict. Last month, North Korea was accused of actively jamming global positioning system (GPS) signals, targeting South Korea’s two largest airports outside its capital city of Seoul. The jamming signals, which were first detected on April 28 and ended on May 6, were traced to the North Korean border city of Kaesong, just 10 km north of the DMZ. Suspicions fell on imported truck-based jamming systems from Russia, capable of jamming signals within 100 kilometres. Was it really North Korea who stood behind the GPS jamming incidents and, if so, what was the purpose?

Following the North’s failed satellite launch on April 13, cyber warfare could be considered by Pyongyang as a more cost-effective way of intimidating the South. North Korea can send out jamming signals over a wide bandwidth, affecting a large number of facilities without consuming excessive amounts of energy or much needed foreign currency. A total of 553 aircraft flying in and out of South Korea’s Incheon and Gimpo airports reported GPS system failures, as did hundreds of ships and fishing boats. Considering the proximity of Seoul to the DMZ and Incheon International Airport’s proximity to the disputed waters of West Sea (Yellow Sea), such activity could cause aircrafts or ships to stray into North Korean territory, which would justify another naval clash.

GPS jamming can be used alone or in combination with other electronic and network-based attacks to disrupt South Korea’s highly digitized society. In addition to its forays into electronic warfare, the North’s military is also reportedly building up its hacking expertise. Within the last 12 months, North Korean military intelligence was accused of conducting a number of cyber attacks against South Korean and US financial institutions, government, and military websites. Experts believe that the DPRK People’s Army has units with hundreds of hackers, many of them based in China, who are employed in psychological operations to spread propaganda and infiltrate social networks. The Reconnaissance General Bureau is usually suspected of being responsible for coordinating these attempts to take down South Korea’s IT and communications infrastructure.

While inter-Korean confrontation is reaching new heights, the arrest of a 56-year-old naturalized citizen of New Zealand in Seoul in June reveals a new trend in an old conflict. An ethnic Korean known as “Mr. Kim” has been accused of exporting a satellite navigation system and long-range rocket detectors, which could have seriously compromised South Korea’s military capability. Kim and his South Korean business partners were arrested after an alleged meeting with a North Korean agent in Dandong, China. In July of last year, Kim also engaged in trade activities in Nampo, North Korea, where he handed over sensitive information that had been requested by a North Korean agent.

To what extent the North Korean military was able to utilize this equipment and information became clearer in early June this year. In an unusually detailed statement, the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army declared an ultimatum to the South Korean president Lee Myung Bak. It claimed that its missile units and other forces had been programmed with the longitude and latitude co-ordinates of various media outlets in Seoul. Among the named targets were the Chosun Ilbo and JoongAng Ilbo newspapers, a TV channel operated by the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper, and the KBS, CBS, MBC, and SBS television stations. In its report, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) named specific coordinates of the targets and promised to eliminate them if Lee did not publicly apologize for “hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK.”

According to Martyn Williams, who runs the “North Korea Tech” website, the coordinates given by the KCNA for the Chosun Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo were incorrect, in that they failed to factor in the simple rule that the maximum value for measuring minutes and seconds is 60. That is, the Chosun Ilbo was listed at 37°56’83″ North and 126°97’65″ East. Even if these calculations were corrected and processed through mapping software, one would end up in the mountains to the northwest of Chuncheon province—a long way from downtown Seoul. The Dong-A-Ilbo’s location was similarly mistaken, as well as the coordinates of JoongAng Ilbo office, which in fact, belonged to a building across the street.

However, it is not only the hi-tech GPS equipment that North Korea might use to cause chaos and panic in South Korea. Some computer experts say that the North could try to destroy infrastructure in South Korea connected with traffic, electricity, power plants, and water supplies by hacking into computer systems. Over the years, the arsenal of North Korean cyber warfare has expanded to include virus-laden computer games. A 39-year-old South Korean game distributor, known as “Mr. Cho,” is now in police custody for allegedly violating the National Security Law when he travelled to Shenyang, China, where he is said to have met with agents of a North Korean trading company.

Cho asked the North Korean programmers to develop game software that would be used in South Korea, purchasing dozens of copies valued at tens of millions of Korean won. He then sold them to South Korean distributers. According to South Korean intelligence officials, these games were infected with malignant viruses, which turned customers’ PCs into “zombie computers,” contributing to the attempted cyber attacks against Incheon International Airport in March 2011. This activity could also provide the North with the personal information of hundreds of thousands of South Korean users of online games.

Unlike the GPS-guided conventional strike, a cyber-attack can be much more precise, long-ranged, and frustrating. North Korea-focused websites run by Pyongyang watchers and academics often fall victim to hacking attempts, which usually take the form of a Distributed Denial of Service attack. DDoS attacks involve surging a server with unwanted requests, creating such demand on the processor that the website itself becomes unavailable. Tad Farrell’s web portal “NK News: DPRK Information Center” suffered several such attacks in the past before being knocked out completely on June 6 by a different type of malicious attack where passwords were changed and most of the data in the server was wiped out.

It happened just two days after a rare photo of Kim Il Sung was published online, revealing the huge cyst on the neck of the former North Korean leader. Talking about this tumor is considered a crime in the North, and the DPRK media still meticulously avoids depicting it. Was this attack initiated by the North Koreans? It is always very difficult to find the culprit of any cyber attack. The North is routinely blamed for masterminding cyber attacks against the unfriendly sites, particularly if they are linked to North Korean defectors or focused on human rights issues. The paranoid nature of the South’s spy agencies and the ongoing inter-Korean conflict tend to elevate such suspicions to the status of common knowledge.

Cyber-attacks occur regularly worldwide and Trojan viruses are relatively easy to code. To organize and sustain a DDoS attack, the hackers must have resources on the scale that could only be provided by a wealthy client or a nation state. With heightening tensions in mind, North Korea would certainly do everything in its power to bolster its intelligence gathering capability along with the ability to attack vulnerable targets. But would not South Korea or China do the same? Even rogue NGOs with sufficient funds and vested interests can be linked to cyber crime.

For example, another news portal that follows North Korea, The Daily NK, reports that it knows the source of the malware infections installed on its website because the same Trojan scripts can be found on Chinese registered domains digtaobao.com and 10086chongzhi.com. These sites have no content and could be used by squads of international hackers. But just because a script is associated with China, does not necessarily answer the question about the origin of the malware code. The reasons behind each attack are much more obvious then the identity of a culprit. In most cases, cyber attacks leave us with circumstantial evidence but never with a smoking gun.

Still, following the most recent incidents, South Korean prosecutors will look even closer at any possible relations between the arrested suspects and North Korea’s jamming of GPS signals and cyber attacks. In a divided Korea, espionage can mean the death penalty. Although no one has been executed in the South for any crime since 1997, the new age of burgeoning information and communication technologies presents new challenges to states and national security. More peoples’ lives become vulnerable to subtle technological manipulations, and even foreign nationals can be easily accused of conspiring with the enemy or targeted by the conflicting sides.

Bruce Willis_die-hard-4The damage from cyber warfare can be serious and its potential consequences are yet to be understood worldwide. A Russian specialist on information security, Eugene Kaspersky, warns: “A cyber weapon can replicate itself and hit a random victim anywhere around the world, no matter how far you are from the conflict zone. After all, the Internet has no borders and an attack may target an identical system, for example power stations, even if they are located in a very different region of the world.” In other words, cyber terrorism opens a new Pandora’s Box of dangers of which the world has not had a chance to witness except from hypothetical scenarios in the Hollywood blockbuster “Die Hard 4.0.”

Peace and security in Korea is becoming increasingly susceptible to cataclysms, which can be triggered by either a malicious intent or human mistake. The non-aggression and non-nuclear agreements, which were signed by Seoul and Pyongyang in the early 1990s, as well as the suspension of mutually hostile propaganda, which was maintained during the years of “Sunshine Policy” (1998-2008), are now null and void. Any provocation—either real or assumed—can be fatal and can lead to the resumption of a full-scale war on the densely populated peninsula.

The Armistice Agreement signed in Korea in 1953 is long over-due for replacement by a firm peace treaty, which would guarantee security and create conditions for peaceful co-existence of the two Korean states. Reconciliation and collaboration between Koreans and their neighbors is necessary to avert the danger of a man-made regional catastrophe. Failing to achieve it quickly, means the whole world might be caught in the virtual crossfire of an unfinished civil war, which began 62 years ago.

Read a shorter version of this article in Korean here…  한반도에서 펼쳐지는 사이버 전쟁?!





South Korean agents arrest ‘spy with poison-tipped needle’

17 09 2011

(Mark Willacy, ABC Radio Australia) South Korea’s spy agency has arrested a man allegedly sent by North Korea to assassinate an anti-Pyongyang activist with a poison-tipped needle. The alleged North Korean agent has been identified only as a man in his 40s known as An.

An is a former special forces commando who supposedly defected to the South more than a decade ago. But recently he asked to meet outspoken anti-Pyongyang activist and defector Park Sang-Hak. After a tip-off from South Korean intelligence agents, Mr Park said he did not show up for the meeting, which was supposed to be held at a subway station in southern Seoul on September 3.

“An told me by phone that he was to be accompanied by a visitor from Japan who wants to help our efforts. But then I was told by the NIS not to go to the meeting due to the risk of assassination,” Mr Park said. “Following advice from intelligence authorities and police, I don’t see any strangers these days.”

Instead An was arrested at the rendezvous point, allegedly carrying a poison-tipped needle and other weapons that investigators believe he was going to use to kill Mr Park. South Korea’s intelligence agency says it will not comment on cases under investigation.

Mr Park is a former North Korean defector who along with other activists sends thousands of anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border, sparking angry protests from North Korea. It has threatened to fire across the border at launch sites for the towering gas balloons that carry the leaflet bundles. Recent leaflets have urged North Koreans to rise up “like Libyan rebels” and topple the regime.

North Korea has a history of trying to silence critics in the South. In January a court jailed a North Korean spy for 10 years for plotting to assassinate the highest-ranking defector ever to flee to the South. The court said the would-be assassin intended to murder Hwang Jang-Yop on orders from Pyongyang, after entering the South posing as a defector.

Mr Hwang died of natural causes at his closely guarded Seoul home last October aged 87. In July last year, two other North Korean spies were sentenced to 10 years in prison for plotting to murder Mr Hwang.

In 1997 Lee Han-Young, a nephew of Sung Hye-Rim – the deceased first wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il – was shot dead outside his apartment in South Korea. Mr Lee, who had lived in the South for 15 years, was murdered after breaking his long silence about Kim’s private life.