Recently, the Japanese media has been full of coverage of a “North
Korean Mata Hari,” a woman posing as a defector who slept
with numerous South Korean military officials in order to gain
military information for the North.
The woman, Won Jeong Hwa, 34, was reportedly ordered by North
Korea’s Public Security Force to spy on defectors, including
Hwang Jang-Yop, the high-ranking former Workers’ Party
Secretary who defected to South Korea.
She was also instructed to locate a woman in her fifties who
had fled North Korea and was now living in Japan, and whom the
North Korean authorities believed held important information
about that country. To that end, Won visited the Japanese cities
of Kawasaki, Sendai and Osaka, to attend meetings arranged by
marriage match-making agencies, apparently intending to enter
into a sham marriage with a Japanese national.
Because of these activities, Japanese NGOs that assist North
Korean defectors to settle in Japan have come under scrutiny.
Unfounded accusations have been directed at Life Funds for North
Korean Refugees (LFNKR), alleging that this organization has
some connection to the defector, reportedly named Ms. Kim, now
living in Japan.
LFNKR wishes to make clear that this organization has never
had any connection whatsoever with the defector, who was described
in Won’s indictment, as a woman in her fifties, originally
from Kim Chaek city, North Hamgyong Province.
As of the end of June 2008, approximately 14,000 of the many
North Koreans who have fled the North have reached the protection
of the South Korean government. Approximately 170 defectors have
settled in Japan.
Most defectors leave North Korea for China due to the widespread
starvation, and many move on from China, seeking freedom via
a third country. All know that, if caught, they will be repatriated
and punished, possibly even executed. These people have nothing
to do with espionage.
With the recent increase in numbers of North Koreans seeking
resettlement in the South, there have been suspicions of espionage,
but this is the first instance where a North Korean spy has actually
been caught. According to one source, orders to infiltrate spies
into the ranks of defectors came from Kim Jong Il at a Central
Workers’ Party meeting on March 21, 2000.
The South Korean joint investigation team
of police agency, military information service, and national
service announced that Won Jeong Hwa, 34, had been arrested
for violating state security. A 26-year-old captain who was
her lover, as well as a 63-year-old North Korean spy who had
infiltrated South Korea and with whom Won was in contact, were
According to reports, Won received espionage training and was
dispatched to China, where she spied on South Korea and helped
force defectors back to North Korea. She subsequently entered
South Korea posing as a defector in October 2001.
Her unusually frequent travels raised the suspicions of authorities,
who put her under long-term observation, culminating in her arrest.