Seoul: A South Korean court sentenced two North Korean Army majors to prison for plotting to assassinate a high-profile defector who once mentored North Korea`s leader.
The Seoul Central District Court handed out 10-year prison terms each to the men after convicting them of violating South Korea`s National Security Law.
They were arrested in Seoul in April for allegedly planning to kill Hwang Jang-yop, a former senior member of the North`s ruling Workers` Party who defected to Seoul in 1997. North Korea has denied the assassination plot.
The 87-year-old Hwang, chief architect of North Korea`s guiding "juche" philosophy of self-reliance, was one of the most powerful officials when he fled to Seoul in 1997 and had tutored leader Kim Jong Il on the ideology.
Since defecting, Hwang has lived in Seoul under tight police security and has written books and delivered speeches condemning Kim`s government as authoritarian.
Prosecutors have said the North Koreans had posed as ordinary defectors and told investigators that they were ordered to report back to Pyongyang on Hwang`s activities in Seoul and to prepare to "slit the betrayer`s throat”.
The Koreas remain officially in a state of war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a ceasefire, not a peace treaty. Tensions on the peninsula are running high following the sinking of a South Korean warship near their sea border in late March, killing 46 sailors. South Korea says North Korea sank the ship with a torpedo attack, an allegation the North denies.