N Korean spy `held for plot to kill top defector in S Korea`

A North Korean agent was arrested on Tuesday for plotting to assassinate a top-ranking defector who died earlier this month from natural causes, South Korean prosecutors said.

Last Updated: Oct 19, 2010, 23:13 PM IST

Seoul: A North Korean agent was arrested on Tuesday for plotting to assassinate a top-ranking defector who died earlier this month from natural causes, South Korean prosecutors said.

The 46-year-old is accused of planning to murder Hwang
Jang-Yop on orders from the North`s Reconnaissance Bureau
which oversees espionage operations against the South, the
Yonhap news agency quoted prosecutors as saying.

Hwang, a former secretary of the North`s ruling party
and tutor to current leader Kim Jong-Il, defected in 1997
during a visit to China.

He lived in Seoul under police guard at an undisclosed
address and became a bitter critic of the regime he once
served, resulting in several death threats.

The 87-year-old was found dead in his bathtub on
October 10. Police said earlier today that an autopsy showed
he had suffered heart failure the day before, and that they
did not suspect foul play.

The spy -- identified only as Lee -- entered South
Korea via Thailand in August posing as an ordinary refugee,
prosecutors said.

His mission was disclosed during an interrogation by
security officials about his motives for fleeing the hardline
communist state.

In July, two North Korean spies were sentenced to 10
years in prison in Seoul for plotting to murder Hwang.

Hwang "suffered heart failure while he was bathing. A
lot of bathwater was found in his lungs," the Seoul
Metropolitan Police Agency said in a statement, citing the
autopsy report.

"No traces of any drug or poison were found in his
body," police said, adding that footage from surveillance
cameras showed no signs of forced entry.

"There was no foul play involved in his death," the
statement added. "We are closing the investigation since there
are no grounds to suspect a homicide."

Hwang had been on medication to treat heart problems,
police said.

He was found dead on the day the North staged a huge
military parade watched by Kim Jong-Il and his youngest son
and heir apparent Jong-Un.

In April the North`s official website threatened Hwang
with death for his criticism of the regime during trips to the
United States and Japan, calling him a "traitor and human
scum" and warning he would "not be safe anywhere".

PTI