November 12, 2021

Agent Chrysanthemum: North Korean Spy Indicted for Coercing Defectors to Return ‘Home’

By Jason Bartlett

South Korean media recently disclosed that a female North Korean spy has been operating inside South Korea for roughly three years, coercing defectors to return “home” to support the regime’s political agenda. This raises significant national security concerns for South Korea, as well as the North Korean defector community, as Pyongyang continues to target dissidents living abroad despite participating in diplomatic summits with both Seoul and Washington.

Coercing, and even abducting, defectors is a common tactic for authoritarian regimes to discourage defection as it intensifies the climate of fear often surrounding those wishing to defect.

According to South Korean media, she officially started working as an undercover agent in 2016 under the code name “Chrysanthemum” (국화 in Korean) and then “defected” to South Korea two years later. She confessed to working for the North’s Ministry of State Security to persuade defectors to return to North Korea during a court hearing in Suwon, South Korea. The North’s Ministry of State Security first approached her in 2014 after learning of her experience acting as a money broker between defectors and their families. One North Korean defector reportedly returned to the North in September 2016 following her persuasion operation and began criticizing South Korea through interviews on state-sponsored media outlets.

Read the full article from The Diplomat.

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