October 12, 2021

Unpacking Claims of Secret North Korean Intelligence Operations

By Jason Bartlett

Believed to be the highest-ranking North Korean military official to ever defect to South Korea, Kim Kuk-song recently confirmed claims of Pyongyang’s involvement in several clandestine operations against Seoul from the early 1990s to 2010. One of the most shocking claims involves a North Korean agent who allegedly infiltrated and worked at the Presidential Office of South Korea in the 1990s for roughly six years before returning to North Korea. While it’s difficult to verify all his claims spanning 30 years, Kim’s testimony illustrates the evolution of North Korea’s intelligence capabilities and targets.

Cyberspace remains a viable domain for infiltration and information collection for highly trained North Korean agents.

Under a protective alias, Kim spoke with the BBC about his 30 years of working within the North’s intelligence collection agencies, which confirmed previous claims from South Korean media that a North Korean senior colonel “in charge of conducting intelligence operations” defected to South Korea in 2015. Kim claimed that Kim Jong Un ordered the creation of a “terror task force” to assassinate enemies of the Workers’ Party, including defectors resettled in South Korea. Pyongyang has refuted such claims. He also confirmed accusations of North Korea’s involvement in the global drug trade and several controversial attacks on South Korean territory, such as the 2010 sinking of the ROK Cheonan, which killed 46 South Korean sailors, and the 2010 shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, which injured 16 South Korean marines and three civilians. For decades, North Korea has vehemently denied responsibility for both attacks.

Read the full article from The Diplomat.

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