North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il’s ruthless agents are attacking and even murdering South Korean activists challenging his reign, analysts say. Many of the activists are evangelical Christians who are smuggling out North Korean defectors and sending anti-Kim literature and Bibles across the border, according to the Los Angeles Times
For example, North Korean agents killed middle-aged South Korean pastor and peace activist who went by the name of Patrick Kim and secretly helped people slip out of North Korea into China, his family and South Korean diplomats told the Times.
The weapon of choice in the August slaying most likely was a poisoned needle, they said.
"We are assuming there was a murder perpetrated. Although the evidence is circumstantial, it points strongly to North Korea," said Lee Dong-bak, a retired official of the South Korean intelligence service who now is an academic in Seoul. "The poison needle has been in use by North Korean special operations for a long time."
The death of Patrick Kim, whose family has not disclosed his full Korean name, was the first of three attacks North Korea is suspected of committing to scare the activists. He had been working with an underground railroad helping North Koreans escape through China.
He also was raising money for his cause in Korean churches in New York and Los Angeles, activists said.
Wary of inflaming tensions, the South Korean government has been cautious not to accuse North Korea of being behind the attacks. The South's Foreign Ministry said an autopsy on the pastor in China did not find any trace of poison.
But a diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Times that the South Korean government believes Kim probably was murdered.
Fellow activists say they have no doubt Kim was murdered. And analysts say the three incidents point to an increasingly belligerent North Korean security apparatus willing to use any means to silence its critics, perhaps connected to the rise of Kim Jong Eun, youngest son and heir apparent of Kim Jong Il.
Young Howard, head of Open Radio for North Korea, which reports from Seoul on the reclusive communist regime, suggests that the attacks were part of an escalation in aggression toward South Korea. He cited a torpedo attack on a South Korean naval ship and the shelling of a South Korean island near disputed waters last year.
"North Korea has turned very hostile to South Korea, and this is part of the pattern we are seeing," he said, noting that Kim Jong Eun may be trying to strengthen his standing with hard-liners in the military and intelligence communities.
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