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  Asia-Pacific
N. Korean Spy Granted Asylum in S. Korea
Yang Hyok-Kae Defects to Seoul Via India from Nepal
By Anil Giri
Kathmandu Correspondent
The North Korean Embassy in Katmandu

Yang Hyok-Kae, the North Korean who recently defected to South Korea after his suspected espionage stint in the guise of a businessman in Nepal, was in "do or die" situation before he was granted asylum in South Korea.

Sun Hack-Dal, 48, who was returned to South Korea on Thursday night in connection with the defection of Yang, said in an interview to a local Nepali newspaper before his departure that had Yang not escaped the North Korean officials in the capital, he could have met a tragic end. “It was a 'do or die' situation," Sun said. “He was running away. I only helped him on humanitarian grounds.”

Admitting that he took Yang up to Birgunj following their encounter in Hetauda, the South Korean also complimented Yang as a smart and intelligent person who deserved being helped to get out of ´criminal hands´. “Though that was my first meeting with Yang, I decided to help him,” he added.

The Department of Immigration (DOI) had on Wednesday decided to enforce a one-year ban on both Sun and his aide Choi Won-Sop to enter Nepal after their forced departures. The DOI had altered its earlier stance of avoiding any periodical prohibition following constant pressure from the North Korea.

Sun claims to have been associated with one Universal Humanitarian Organization (UHO) as the sitting vice-president. The organization, he says, helped Yang as its first case of helping a North Korean find an asylum in South Korea.

“He met me on November 20, and Choi and I together escorted him up to Birgunj the next day,” Sun said.

Yang, as advised by Sun, met in New Delhi one Amit Paul, the president of UHO, who helped the defector contact the South Korean embassy, thereby to be granted asylum in South Korea.

Sun, who claims to have been doing humanitarian and cultural works in Nepal for the last ten years during which period he also married a Nepali girl, said that his forced return to South Korea would be like the perishing of a small fish in a fight between two sharks — North and South Korea.

Sun lamented that his own country did not support him while he was detained by police for ´no reason´. “The embassy people did not bother to help us,” he added.

He revealed that the North Korean embassy officials had reached Hetauda themselves together with police to arrest them. “They even interrogated us. That are not authorized to do that,” he added.

Sun, a microbiologist, said that he would come back to Nepal and pursue his dream of building a cultural museum at Bhimphedi near Hetauda after completion of the one-year ban.

Police acting on a complaint by the North Korean embassy in Kathmandu had arrested Choi and Sun one month ago and booked them on a public offence charge to look into their roles in the defection of Yang Hyok-Kae, a purported restaurant operator.

Authorities suspect Yang was a North Korean spy. He was released by the District Administration Office (DAO) on a normal date after three weeks of detention.

The disappearance of Yang had triggered a rash diplomatic outcry among North Korean officials in the capital. They had pressed both the Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) and the Ministry of Foreign Affaris (MOFA) to prosecute the South Koreans on a kidnapping charge.

Yang had come to Nepal in December 2009 and started operating one Kumgangsan Korean Restaurant on the top floor of the Woodlands Business Complex at Durbarmarg nine months ago.

After he fell out with the complex owner in connection with rental agreement, North Korean Embassy officials had brokered peace between them. One official who identified himself as a third secretary of the embassy was even said to have been involved in monetary negotiations.

Yang was also known to be a fraudster who owes around Rs 7 million to several Nepali businessmen who, however, did not bother to complain about the matter with the police.

Choi, who aided Sun in connection with Yang´s defection, left for South Korea on Friday afternoon.



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Anil Giri serves as Kathmandu Correspondent for The Seoul Times.As a journalist he has worked for such news media as Annapurna Post, BBC, and Himalayan Times for years. He finished his both undergrad Economics degree and his MA degree in English Literature at Tribhuvan Univ., Kathmandu. He also holds a diploma in Development Journalism from prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication-IIMC, New Delhi, India.

 

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