Korea has made a rare and public accusation against South Korea of backing an
undercover attempt to kill the North's leader, Kim Jong Il. In a public
statement, Pyongyang names an agent it accuses of working for the South's
North Korea went public Friday with what it described as the capture of an
North Korean television said authorities have arrested a person with the
surname Ri. The report said the man was trying to carry out what it called a
"terrorist mission given by a South Korean intelligence organisation to harm the
country's top leader," an indirect reference to Kim Jong Il.
The report continued by saying the people have to deal a merciless blow to
anyone who dares to attack the headquarters of the Korean revolution, no matter
where the attacker may come from.
Friday's rare and unusual public statement was issued by the Ministry of
State Security, North Korea's main spy agency. It alleges the would-be assassin
was equipped with acoustic devices for tracking the North Korean leader's
movements, and that he appeared to be planning an eventual poison attack.
South Korean officials have not yet responded formally. South Korea's main
intelligence agency has denied any involvement with the North Korean claims.
The North's accusations
follow a year of steadily worsening inter-Korean relations since the South's
conservative President, Lee Myung-bak, took office in January. Pyongyang labels
Mr. Lee a "traitor," and accuses him of failing to live up to past North-South
agreements. This month North Korea sharply scaled back border access and major
North-South projects, including a joint industrial zone. The North has
threatened to sever relations altogether.
South Korea experts say it is very uncharacteristic of Pyongyang to speak
publicly of a risk to the North's leader. North Korean officials generally
prefer to maintain an image of invincibility for Kim Jong Il.
Yang Mu-jin, a scholar at Kyungnam University of North Korean Studies in
Seoul, said he thinks the North Korean announcement has two purposes.
He said domestically, North Korea is seeking to stoke anti-South Korean
feeling among its people. At the same time, Pyongyang is retaliating for South
Korea's prosecution of a convicted North Korean spy earlier this year. He said
the North is also sending a message that it will keep up a tough policy toward
the South for the foreseeable future.