Won Jeong Hwa is being called the “modern day Mati Hari”, after being found guilty of having sex with South Korean officials so they would give her sensitive information, which she in turn gave to her North Korean employers. Spy Won Jeong Hwa gets five years in prison for her crimes.
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South Korean spy, Won Jeong Hwa was found guilty of trading sex for secrets with South Korean officials and then turning around and giving the information to North Korean bosses. Won Jeong Hwa was convicted to five years in prison.
Won Jeong Hwa’s story sounds like something out of a spy thriller. There were plots to assassinate South Korean agents with poisoned needles, schemes to get a hold of photographs of military installations and weapons systems, kidnapping, maintaining a secret file of defectors from North Korea and even setting up home with an army officer from whom she extracted information.
Won Jeong Hwa, 34, stood serious hearing from the judge that she would be given five years in prison for spying.
‘I wanted to turn myself in,’ she said through tears at a previous hearing, ‘but I just could not because of fears for my relatives in the North.’
Won Jeong Hwa gathered information on key military installations in South Korea – which is in a cold war stand-off with North Korea – and passing it to North Korean agents in China.
Won Jeong Hwa actually was in China when she approached South Korean officials, saying she had been born in the North and wanted to defect.
She arrived at the international airport in South Korean capital Seoul in 2001, when she was applauded by authorities for her courage.
Described as a model defector, she was given the job of touring military bases to lecture troops on the evils of the North Korean Stalinist state.
During all this time she was secretly photographing and taking information about weapons systems and personal data about military officers.
One of Won Jeong Hwa’s main missions was to locate and kill top-ranking North Korean defector Hwang Jang-yop with a poisoned needle, even though he has been under round-the-clock police protection after earlier assassination attempts by agents from the north.
As they investigated Won, authorities in the south learned that as a young woman she had been jailed in the north for theft and had feared she would be executed.
Won Jeong Hwa was arrested in July of this year, on charges of giving classified information to the South’s enemy. This sensitive information included the locations of key military installations, lists of North Korean defectors and personal information on South Korean military officers.
Won Jeong Hwa fled to China, where she was recruited by North Korea’s National Security Agency.
While in China Won Jeong Hwa became pregnant by a South Korean businessman she met there – an event which was to provide the perfect cover for her spying. She arrived in Seoul with a baby daughter, saying she wanted to find the father and defect.
And so her life as a spy began, with Won making numerous trips to China to pass military information to North Korean agents.
She was eventually arrested after South Korean agents started monitoring her in the wake of a report by a suspicious military officer she had approached for information.
She confessed to her spying activities and even admitted helping to kidnap North Korean defectors in China.
Surprisingly, Seoul prosecutors did not ask for the death sentence, which many thought she would receive. They said they believed Won genuinely regretted her spying.
Among all the comments she made to South Korean investigators who interrogated her was one that accounted for her actions more than any other: “It is my sin to have been born in the North.”
North Korea responded saying, “She is human scum”.