The Holdouts: Ha Young Ok and Friends

[In the Shadow of the Sun]
Han Ki Hong, President, NKnet  |  2014-08-04 11:57

In May 2010 a call came into 111 Call Center, where the NIS, South Koreas state intelligence agency, accepts civilian reports of threats to national security. The caller asserted something very serious: that remnants of Minhyukdang, an underground pro-North Korea organization that had been active in the 1990s, had returned to their old ways.

Three years later, the report was found to be accurate. A serving National Assemblyman and former Minhyukdang cadre called Lee Seok Ki had, it was said, formed a new Revolutionary Organization. 130 members of this so-called RO had met at a location in Hapjeong-dong, Seoul during May 2013, a time of great inter-Korean tensions. There they had, the court would later acknowledge, discussed concrete means of fomenting unrest and overthrowing the South Korean state in the event of war. Seven men were convicted; appeals are ongoing.

The simple fact that this could take place in contemporary South Korea often comes as a surprise to Daily NK readers, most of whom have never been steeped in the Cold War milieu of the Korean Peninsula. Yet it is just the most recent in a long line of extraordinary tales of infiltration and espionage, as Zeitgeist Publishing House revealed in 2012 when it released Han Ki Hong's The Shadow of Progressivism". The book seized upon a moment in South Korean history, and was enormously successful. In this, the fifth part of an exclusive series of excerpts, Daily NK finds out why.

 Ha Young Ok

On May 28th, 1990, a ceremony was held on Mt. Dobong, a secondary mountain on the fringes of Bukhansan National Park in northern Seoul. There, Ha Young Ok and Kim Young Hwan were inducted into the Chosun Workers Party. Ha would come to be known by the codename Gwanaksan-2; his Party membership number was 102. As others had before him, he declared joining the Party to be a signal honor" and pledged to do everything in my power to carry through its mission." 

Ha was a stubborn, determined activist; a year before, in March 1989, he had set up the Anti-imperialist Youth Alliance. That is perhaps why he was the only National Democratic Revolutionary Party (NDRP) Central Committee member to stand resolute when a disillusioned Kim Young Hwan tabled a motion calling for its dissolution in July 1997. Rather than follow the trend, Ha reacted by reaching out to Sim Jae Chun, persuading him to continue the party's core activities on Has own instructions.

In late October 1998, long after Kim Young Hwan had unmasked the underground organization, Kim Kyeong Hwan, a journalist with the monthly magazine Mal contacted Ha to convey secret news that a North Korean agent had come to Seoul and wished to meet him. Ha accepted, meeting the North Korean at a faculty meeting room at Seoul National University. There, he was informed that he had been appointed chair of the NDRP in absentia, and should visit the North. He was given a code sheet, a booklet on Internet communications techniques, training in North Koreas specific communication methods, and 3,000,000 won in operational funds, a considerable sum at the time.

Throughout that month and into the next, Ha helped the North Korean spy, Won Jin Wu, evade the police. The pair used Sim Jae Chun's home as a safe house and, on November 11th, went to Hwagok 6-dong government office, where Ha helped his North Korean colleague acquire official documents, including a national ID number and associated documentation (that had been stolen from another person of the same name).

On November 19th, Ha and Won went to the coastal village of Naeri on Ganghwa Island to leave for North Korea, but a semi-submersible that had been sent to take them was detected by the South Korean military. Fleeing back to Seoul separately, they soon agreed a revised timetable for the journey, and Ha's codename was immediately changed to Gwangmyungsung.

On November 27th, Won gave Ha 500,000 won cash in operational funds after exchanging a quantity of Japanese Yen at a black market currency exchange behind the Sinsaegae Department Store in Myeongdong. Ha and Sim planned to guide Won to an exfiltration point at Yeosu, where they were to reconnoitre the local area. On December 16th, the day before the three left on the trip, Ha wrote up three reports  a letter of introduction, a report, and a communications guide  and encrypted them using the code sheet hed been given by Won. The next day all three left in Sims car, placing the reports for North Korea  2 diskettes and 3 coded letters  in a bag. They made contact with two North Korean agents at a prearranged recovery point at around 11 pm. 

The next day, the semi-submersible that Won had boarded near Yeosu was sunk (see pt.1).

This prompted a worried Ha and Sim to discuss how to cover up their involvement in the case. They decided, in the interests of organizational security, to cut contact with one another for a spell. 

Little more than a month later, in early August, Ha is known to have visited a small, nameless Internet cafe in the Sillim area of Seoul, where he picked up a message from North Korea. The decoded contents read: Maintain your security. PGP method [of achieving Internet privacy] is being researched. Prepare as best you can. Ha remained in contact with North Korea, and went on with his anti-government activities. 

 Sim Jae Chun

Sim began life as a Seoul National University (SNU) phys-ed student in March 1988. There, he became an adherent of Juche and active participant in anti-government protests both on and off campus. Naturally, he soon joined the newly created Anti-Imperialist Youth Alliance, under the sponsorship of a fellow SNU student called So **.

During their November 1998 visit to Yeosu, Sim and Won collected intelligence on military and police checkpoints, the state of coastal military bases and the geography of the area. They also recovered a radio, poisons and other operational equipment from a dead drop. On December 12th, 1998, Sim obtained identity papers for Won from Sillim 9-dong government office. Two days later, on the 14th, he obtained a copy of the real Wons family register from another such office in Bongcheon 7-dong. 

During early 1999, Sim joined the Workers Party and was given the codename Kwangmyungsung-91. He became Has communications officer and, at a small inn near Jeonju in the southern province of North Jeolla, received training in wireless communications, numeric code decryption, methods for receiving A-3communications, and escape and evasion techniques in the event of emergency. Even after Wons semi-submersible was sunk, Sim remained in contact with operational headquarters in North Korea by radio and Internet. 

 Kim Kyeong Hwan

Kim Kyeong Hwan originally became active as a member of the Anti-Imperialist Youth Alliance while a student at Hanguk University of Foreign Studies. In mid-September 1989, another student named Ko introduced him to Won Jin Wu and his wife **. At that time, Ko was a part-timer at a small traditional Malaysian restaurant in the Nonhyon area of Gangnam, the rapidly developing heart of Seoul's business district. Both Won, then known as Jin Un Bang (see pt.1), and his wife were undercover North Korean agents posing as Malaysians.

Won told Kim that he had been sent from North Korea to work on reunification. Weve known about you since you first joined the Anti-Imperialist Youth Alliance, and proposed that he and Kim work together for reunification.

In  February 1991, Kim met Kim Young Hwan in a small bakery in Noryangjin. Kim asked him to,act as my intermediary contact with Jin Un Bang. Kim accepted Kim Young Hwans offer. At the direction of Kim Young Hwan, Kim joined the Workers' Party in August 1991 and was given the codename Kwanmobong. Although there is evidence that Kim followed Kim Young Hwan in changing ideologically in the late 90s, he was given a prison sentence for later helping Ha Young Ok contact Won Jin Wu. 

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