North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

NK Operatives Arrested in ROK for HJY Assassination Plot

Lieutenant General Kim Yong Chol, Director of the NDC Policy Department

Two men are being detained in Seoul Detention Center on charges of plotting to kill former KWP Secretary of Ideology, Hwang Jang Yop.  HJY is the highest ranking DPRK official defect from the country.

According to NIS officials and ROK prosecutors, Kim Yong-ho and Dong Myong-gwan, are agents of the NDC (MPAF) Reconnaissance Bureau.  Their KWP memberships were initiated in 1998 and they commenced training in 2004.  Mr. Kim and Mr. Dong traveled to Thailand as North Korean migrants, where they were arrested by Thai authorities and ultimately sent to the ROK.  JoongAng reports:

The two agents were ordered in November by the bureau’s chief, Colonel General Kim Yong-chol, to assassinate Hwang, the former secretary of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party.

Hwang, who used to be ranked the 24th most powerful person in the North, defected to the South in February 1997 by taking refuge in the South Korean consulate in Beijing. Since his defection, Hwang has faced numerous assassination threats.

Hwang is the architect of juche, the self-reliance ideology of the North Korean regime.

According to the authorities, the agents were sent to China last December and received training.

The men then smuggled themselves into Thailand posing as North Korean defectors with the intention of being arrested by Thai authorities. Kim was sent to the South in January this year and Dong the next month.

“The Thai authorities send arrested North Korean defectors automatically to South Korea, and the two agents took advantage of the policy,” said a prosecution source.

The covers of the two agents, however, were exposed during National Intelligence Service interviews upon their arrivals in the South. During follow-up interrogation, the two men confessed their mission to assassinate Hwang, prosecution sources said.

Interestingly, 20 April is the same day in 1997 that Hwang Jang Yop and his aide Kim Tok Hong arrived in Seoul, several months after defecting in Beijing.

Prior to this arrest, Lieutenant General Kim Yong Chol’s name was already ringing in Pyongyang watchers’ ears.  In reports on possible DPRK involvement in the sinking of the Cheonan, ROK sources have accused Lieutenant General Kim of coordinating the attack through his management of the NDC Policy Department (which is currently believed to manage the former MPAF Reconnaissance Bureau, the KWP Operations Department and Office #35).

Choe Sang-hun has a comprehensive piece on the arrests and information on HJY, who recently completed his “The Temple’s in Flames” tour of the US and Japan.

An affiliate of 38 North