South Korean prosecutors seek prison terms for North Koreans in alleged plot to kill defector

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

SKorea seeks jail for NKoreans in defector plot

SEOUL, South Korea — Prosecutors sought 15-year prison terms Wednesday for two North Koreans accused of plotting to assassinate the highest-profile official to defect to South Korea.

In April, South Korean prosecutors announced they had arrested two North Korean army majors for allegedly planning to kill Hwang Jang-yop, a former senior member of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party who defected to Seoul in 1997. North Korea has denied the allegation, calling it a South Korean put-up job aimed at intensifying anti-North sentiment.

Hwang, the 87-year-old chief architect of North Korea’s guiding “juche” philosophy of self-reliance, once mentored North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Since defecting, he has lived in Seoul under tight police security and has written books and delivered speeches condemning Kim’s government as authoritarian.

On Wednesday, prosecutors urged the Seoul Central District Court to send the men to prison for 15 years for violating the National Security Law, prosecution spokesman Oh Se-in said.

The prison term would be a “warning over their plotted crime to North Korea’s spy authorities,” prosecutors told a court session, according to Oh.

The Seoul court is to issue a ruling on July 1, said court spokesman Kim Sang-woo.

Prosecutors have said the North Koreans had posed as ordinary defectors and confessed to investigators that they were ordered to report back to Pyongyang on Hwang’s activities in Seoul and to prepare to “slit the betrayer’s throat.”

The two Koreas remain officially in a state of war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty. Tensions on the peninsula are running high following the sinking of a South Korean warship near their sea border in late March, killing 46 sailors. South Korea says North Korea sank the ship, an allegation the North denies.

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