Seoul court clears N. Korean defector executed by South

12-Oct-2018 Intellasia | AFP | 6:00 AM Print This Post

A Seoul court on Thursday posthumously exonerated a high-ranking North Korean defector executed nearly 50 years ago for spying, saying he had been convicted on trumped-up charges under the South’s then military regime.

Lee Soo-keuna former vice head of the North’s state-run KCNA news agencymade headlines in Seoul in 1967 when he made a dramatic escape through the heavily-fortified border.

While covering an event at the border truce village of Panmunjom, Lee hopped onto a United Nations forces vehicle in the area to defect.

Lee was hailed as a hero in the South where he soon married a South Korean woman and was hired by Seoul’s spy agency, which served then-dictator Park Chung-hee.

Lee Soo-keun escaped by hopping onto a UN forces vehicle in the border truce village of Panmunjom (AFP)

Lee Soo-keun escaped by hopping onto a UN forces vehicle in the border truce village of Panmunjom (AFP)

But Lee was constantly bullied at work and accused of being a double agent, prompting the disillusioned defector to try to escape again just two years later, to Cambodia via South Vietnam.

He was arrested at an airport in Saigon by Seoul’s spy agents and put on a trial in Seoul for spying under the guise of a defector. Lee was convicted in 1969 and executed months later, aged 45.

For decades his case was widely used in anti-Communist propaganda in the Southwhich technically remains at war with the North after the 1950-53 Korean War ended only with an armistice, rather than a peace treaty.

The Seoul Central District Court reopened the case last year, a decade after the state Truth and Reconciliation Commission said that Lee had been forced to confess after being illegally detained and tortured.

“He was labelled by the government as a spy without being able to exercise his rights and rights to defend himself in court, and had his life taken away through execution,” the court said.

It added: “Now is time for the nation to seek forgiveness from him and his family for the wrongdoings committed under the past authoritarian regime.”



Category: Korea

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