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Arrest looms for accused operators of North Korean spy ring

Jan. 31, 2023 - 16:16 By Kim Arin
Activists protest against investigation of supposed spy ring for North Korea outside the office of the National Intelligence Service in South Gyeongsang Province

An arrest warrant is being sought after four individuals accused of operating a spy ring for North Korea, according to a Seoul court on Tuesday.

The Seoul central district court opened a hearing at 3 p.m. to determine whether to issue an arrest warrant requested by prosecutors for the four accused spies for North Korea. The court may take longer than a day to make a decision on the prosecutors’ request for a warrant of arrest, which was filed Monday.

The request for their arrest comes more than two months since the intelligence authorities conducted the first raid in an investigation into the alleged spy ring for North Korea.

In November last year, the National Intelligence Service searched the offices of what is publicly known as a pro-unification group on allegations they were working with North Korea. Four of the pro-unification group officials -- three based in South Gyeongnam Province and one in Seoul -- have been detained by the police on Saturday.

The pro-unification group faces the accusations that they worked with North Korean authorities, meeting with them in Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, to plot anti-South Korean government activities since 2016.

In a phone call with The Korea Herald on Tuesday, one of the lawyers representing the accused spies said describing them as “anti-South Korean government” is “incredibly inappropriate.” She said that some of them were “pro-Korea unification activists.”

“The so-called anti-government activities are waging anti-Japan and anti-US protests, and organizing cheer events for the North Korean team at the World Shooting Championships back in 2018. I think these are activities any South Korean citizen can engage in,” she said.

She refused to comment further saying, “We will clarify everything in court.”

The conviction of violating the National Security Act, which the accused spies face, can bring about a maximum penalty of a death sentence or a lifetime in jail.