NK Spy a Modern-Day ‘Mata Hari’

Woman Seduces Officials, in Search of Secrets

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 intelligence 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 also arrested.

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.