A North Korean defector who collected information for North Korean authorities after being blackmailed has been given a suspended sentence.
The defector, identified by the surname Han, was sentenced to an eight-month prison term suspended for two years for violating the National Security Act.
The Seoul Central District Court ruled that Han’s actions represented a clear danger of damaging South Korea’s democratic order and national security, as the information Han provided is likely to be used against the South.
However, the court handed down a suspended sentence in light of the determination that Han was acting under duress, that his plans to return to the North were not realized and that Han has no other criminal record.
Han came to the South in June 2011 through China, then settled to work at an industrial complex. The North’s State Security Department began to blackmail Han in 2013, directing Han to return to the North and threatening to harm his family members in North Korea.
Han was also told to collect information on North Korean defectors in the South for the State Security Department.
The information he provided led to North Korean authorities apprehending a broker for sending money in North Korea.
According to reports, Han had been sending money to family in the North through the broker from 2014 until the broker was arrested in March 2018.
In March 2018, Han began to make plans to return to the North, and exchanged 117 text messages with the State Security Department official who had been blackmailing him.
Han then went to China with 87 million won ($74,100) – 6 million won from savings and 81 million won borrowed from four different nonbanking lenders. While in China, Han revealed plans to give the State Security Department a bribe of 50 million won and to use 30 million won to purchase a truck that he planned to use once back in the North.
The North Korean official, however, demanded 80 million won, which prompted Han to return to the South.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com