South Korea charges North Korean agent caught carrying ‘poison-tipped needle’

Park Sang-hak

Park Sang-hak

The South Korean government has formally pressed charges against a North Korean defector, whom it accuses of trying to kill an outspoken anti-Pyongyang activist living in the South, with the use of a poison-tipped needle. As intelNews reported last month, a man identified only as ‘Ahn’ was arrested at a subway station in southern Seoul, as he tried to assassinate Park Sang-Hak. The alleged target of the assassination is a high-profile North Korean defector known for spearheading an imaginative —and often controversial— propaganda campaign directed against the government of North Korea. In one recent case, Park, along with his wife and children, employed dozens of inflatable helium balloons to smuggle thousands of leaflets, dollar bills, solar-powered radios, and DVDs into North Korea. According to the Korean Central Prosecutor’s Office in Seoul, Park’s activities prompted Pyongyang to employ ‘Ahn’, a North Korean former Special Forces commando, to try to kill the anti-communist propagandist. According to South Korean officials, ‘Ahn’, has operated as a North Korean sleeper agent ever since his relocation to Seoul, in the late 1990s. In the summer of 2011, ‘Ahn’ contacted Park and eventually managed to arrange a meeting with him at a suburban subway station in the South Korean capital for September 3. However, several days prior to the arranged rendezvous, Park received notice from South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) that ‘Ahn’ was out to either kidnap or kill him. The alleged North Korean agent was arrested at the subway station at the time of his meeting with Park. South Korean government prosecutors claim that NIS agents found a poison-tipped needle in ‘Ahn’s’ possession, which they plan to use as evidence at his upcoming closed-door trial. Although highly sensational, this case is hardly unique within the North-South Korean context, where assassinations and kidnappings happen on a relatively regular basis. In April of 2010, Seoul announced that two North Korean defectors had admitted to being intelligence officers on a Pyongyang-sponsored mission to assassinate Hwang Jang-yop, a former secretary of the Korean Workers’ Party and the ideological architect of juche, North Korea’s officially sanctioned state dogma. Hwang, who died in October of 2010, had defected to the South in 1997.

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