Two North Koreans Said to Be Arrested for Alleged Plot to Murder Defector

South Korean prosecutors arrested two North Koreans on suspicion they were sent to murder the highest-ranking member of the communist regime ever to defect, an intelligence official said.

Two men were detained yesterday after confessing they came to South Korea to kill Hwang Jang Yop, who defected in 1997, a press official at the National Intelligence Service said by phone today in Seoul. Yonhap News reported on the arrests yesterday.

The men entered South Korea this year and confessed to being special agents of North Korea’s Ministry of People’s Armed Forces, the official said, declining to be named in accordance with agency policy. Prosecutors at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office couldn’t be reached for comment. North Korea’s official Korea Central News Agency hasn’t commented.

Tensions have risen on the peninsula since a South Korean warship sank last month close to the disputed maritime border following an unexplained explosion. North Korea on April 17 denied it was responsible after South Korea’s initial investigation indicated an external blast caused the incident.

Vocal Critic

Hwang, 87, served as a secretary on North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party and a chairman on the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s parliament. He is a vocal critic of Kim Jong Il’s regime and lives under constant police protection.

The two North Koreans, identified as Kim Myong Ho and Tong Myong Kwan, entered South Korea via Thailand, posing as defectors, Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported today, citing officials at the intelligence service and prosecutors it didn’t identify. They were on a mission to “slit Hwang Jang Yop’s throat,” the paper said.

Kim and Tong, both 36, were trained as special agents since 2004 to infiltrate South Korea and assassinate high-ranking officials, Chosun said.

North Korea earlier this month said it will scrap a 12- year-old joint mountain resort project, freezing some South Korean assets. The North’s military today told Seoul-based Hyundai Asan Corp., the operator of the Mount Geumgang resort, it will conduct a final survey of the assets at the resort starting tomorrow, Hyundai said in an e-mailed statement.

South Korea and North Korea remain technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in a cease-fire that was never replaced by a peace treaty.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bomi Lim in Seoul at blim30@bloomberg.net

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