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Suspects in North Korea espionage case to be turned over to prosecution

Suspects in North Korea espionage case to be turned over to prosecution
South Korean activists who made contact with North Korean agents in China in 2017 are to be turned over to South Korean prosecutors, according to press reports on Friday. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Three South Korean suspects arrested and charged with spying for the Kim Jong Un regime have been turned over to prosecutors in the South Korean city of Cheongju, according to reports.

Three members of the North Chungcheong Province Branch for Independent Unification have been identified by their last names.

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A 57-year-old with the surname Park served as "adviser," a 50-year-old Yoon acted as vice chair, and a 50-year-old Park served as liaison officer, Yonhap reported.

Yoon previously was identified by South Korean network KBS as a suspect who approached members of South Korea's ruling Democratic Party in North Chungcheong Province for "interviews." Yoon may have been arrested as early as 2020, the report said.

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A fourth suspect and member of the group deemed a low-flight risk was not turned over to the prosecution. The suspect, identified as a 47-year-old with the surname Son, is expected to meet with prosecutors after investigators examine the suspect for corroborating evidence, according to News 1.

South Korea's spy agency has charged the group with receiving a total of 84 directives from North Korea. The orders from Pyongyang, found on a flash drive, were encrypted using steganography.

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The suspects are being charged under South Korea's anti-Pyongyang National Security Law. The group is accused of making illicit contact with North Korean agents and engaging in recruiting activities targeting more than 60 South Korean individuals, according to Yonhap.

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A warrant for their arrest obtained by Yonhap showed that the suspects also approached chairman of ruling Democratic Party, Song Young-gil. The group allegedly met with Song for a 27-minute interview last October, when Song was serving as chair of the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee.

Son, one of the suspects, said in a memo after the meeting they discussed a project to send 1 million chestnut seedlings to North Korea, according to the report.

South Korean authorities have said the defendants held public demonstrations and condemned the acquisition of U.S. F-35 fighter jets.

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