Although Laura Ling and Euna Lee’s producer-cameraman Mitchell Koss greatly endangered North Korean refugees and their helpers by fleeing back to the Chinese side of the border on March 17th and thereby allowing the Chinese authorities to seize his camera footage, the fallout from his actions is nothing compared to that engendered by Won Jeong-hwa. As we approach the one-year anniversary of this 35-year-old’s time served in a South Korean jail (October 15th), it’s worth revisiting the @CurrentVanguard-worthy case of North Korea‘s equivalent to the infamous Mata Hari.
This North Korean spy’s accomplishments are two-fold. Having initially fled to China in the 1990s, she returned in 1998 and went on to help arrange the abduction of some 100 North Koreans and seven South Koreans. Then, in 2001, she relocated to South Korea, where she posed as a defector and firmly established herself as an appointed public speaker, regaling factory audiences with tales of the evil Hermit Kingdom. Along the way, she successfully seduced at least one South Korean officer and passed back information about defectors, military secrets and more.
Jeon-hwa (pictured above) was finally caught in the spring of 2008 with a 65-year-old “foster father,”, and though she could have been given the death penalty for her crimes (she was found guilty on all counts), lucky for her the trial took place in South Korea, not the North. She ultimately received a five-year sentence from the Suwon District Court south of Seoul.
The trial also revealed that during one of her trips back to China from South Korea to liaise with fellow operatives, she took possession of poisoned syringes to assassinate one of North Korea’s highest ranking defectors as well as various South Korean officials. But that part of the plan was never successfully carried out. Still, from November 2006 until her capture, Jeon-hwa made 52 more “security lectures,” during which she customarily blamed the U.S. and Japan for the Korean War and framed North Korea’s nuclear armament as a simple act of self-defense.