Twentieth edition of the N&O column / Spooks newsletter

(Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1999 19:44:29 +0100)

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Agency profile - North and South Korea

North Korea

Country profile

North Korea, or better, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) measures 120,540 km2. Its capital is Pyongyang. The country is devided in 9 provincies (do): Chagang-do, Hamgyong-namdo, Hamgyong-bukto, Hwanghae-namdo, Hwanghae-bukto, Kangwon-do, P'yongan-bukto, P'yongan-namdo, Yanggang-do, and 3 special cities (jikhalsi); Kaesong-si, Namp'o-si, P'yongyang-si.

DPRK's Defense Forces consist of the following branches: Korean People's Army (including the Army, Navy, Air Force), Civil Security Forces.

Intelligence agencies:

Cabinet General Intelligence Bureau

The majority of the North Korean intelligence agencies are within the Cabinet General Intelligence Bureau of the Korean Worker's Party Central Committee.

The Liaison Department is responsible for conducting intelligence operations in South Korea and Japan. Its agents are used to undermine the South Korean government by supporting internal subversion and to gather information on U.S. forces in Korea.

The Research Department for External Intelligence (RDEI) is the primary agency responsible for foreign intelligence collection. The RDEI is composed of four geographic subsections, one of which is North America.

General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chosen Soren)

Chosen Soren (the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan Zainichi Chosenjin Sorengokai), the association of Korean residents in Japan, is North Korea's de facto embassy in Tokyo. Since Chosen was the formal name of Korea when Japan ruled the peninsula, and Japan does not have diplomatic relations with the North, Korean nationals who do not change their nationality to South Korea remain Chosen nationals. The Chosen Soren (in Japanese), or Chongryon (in Korean), was founded on May 25, 1955. Its organizational structure includes the headquarters in Tokyo, prefectural and regional head offices and branches with 18 mass propaganda bodies and 23 business enterprises.

Gakushu-gumi is Chosen's underground organization, which is a quasi-formal body of the North Korean Workers' Party. Gakushu-gumi, with a membership estimated at 5,000, engages in intelligence activities and political maneuverings against South Korea. The Chosen Soren supports intelligence operations in Japan, assists in the infiltration of agents into South Korea, collects open source information, and diverts advanced technology for use by North Korea.

Reconnaissance Bureau

The Reconnaissance Bureau of the General Staff Dept is responsible for collecting strategic, operational, and tactical intelligence for the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces. It is also responsible for infiltrating intelligence personnel into South Korea though tunnels under the demilitarized zone and seaborne insertion.

By any consideration North Korea has one of the world's largest special operations forces. Estimates of the size of the army's special operations forces ranged from 60,000 persons to over 100,000 persons. The uncertainty over the number derives from both the lack of information and the varying definitions of special operations forces. Organized into 22 brigades and at least seven independent battalions, the special operations forces are believed to be the best trained and to have the highest morale of all North Korean ground forces.

The Ministry of the People's Armed Forces controls the bulk of the special operations forces through one of two commands, the Reconnaissance Bureau and the Light Infantry Training Guidance Bureau. The Reconnaissance Bureau is the primary organization within the Ministry of People's Armed Forces for the collection of strategic and tactical intelligence. It also exercises operational control over agents engaged in collecting military intelligence and in the training and dispatch of unconventional warfare teams.

State Security Department

The Ministry of Public Security and the State Security Department are responsible for internal security. Although both are government organs, they are tightly controlled by the party apparatus through the Justice and Security Commission and the penetration of their structures by the party apparatus at all levels. The formal public security structure is augmented by a pervasive system of informers throughout the society. Surveillance of citizens, both physical and electronic, also is routine.

In 1973 political security responsibilities were transferred from the Ministry of Public Security to the State Security Department, an autonomous agency reporting directly to the President. The State Security Department carries out a wide range of counterintelligence and internal security functions normally associated with "secret police." It is charged with searching out anti-state criminals -a general category that includes those accused of antigovernment and dissident activities, economic crimes, and slander of the political leadership. Camps for political prisoners are under its jurisdiction. It has counterintelligence responsibilities at home and abroad, and runs overseas intelligence collection operations. It monitors political attitudes and maintains surveillance of returnees.

The Border Guards are the paramilitary force of the Ministry of Public Security. They are primarily concerned with monitoring the border and with internal security.

Ministry of Public Security

The Ministry of Public Security and the State Security Department are responsible for internal security. Although both are government organs, they are tightly controlled by the party apparatus through the Justice and Security Commission and the penetration of their structures by the party apparatus at all levels. The formal public security structure is augmented by a pervasive system of informers throughout the society. Surveillance of citizens, both physical and electronic, also is routine. In 1973 political security responsibilities were transferred from the Ministry of Public Security to the State Security Department, an autonomous agency reporting directly to the President.

South Korea

Country profile

The Republic of Korea, or ROK, measures 98,480 km2. Its capital is Seoul. The country is devided in 9 provinces (do); Cheju-do, Cholla-bukto, Cholla-namdo, Ch'ungch'ong-bukto, Ch'ungch'ong-namdo, Kangwon-do, Kyonggi-do, Kyongsang-bukto, Kyongsang-namdo, and 6 special cities (jikhalsi); Inch'on-jikhalsi, Kwangju-jikhalsi, Pusan-jikhalsi, Soul-t'ukpyolsi, Taegu-jikhalsi, and Taejon-jikhalsi.

The Defense Forces consist of the folowing branches: Army, Navy, Marines Corps, and Air Force.

Intelligence agencies:

General

After the division of the peninsula, North Korea used subversion and sabotage against South Korea as part of its effort to achieve reunification, but was unsuccessful at developing a covert political infrastructure in South Korea, and after the early 1960s P'yongyang's efforts were unproductive. Based on available evidence, in 1990 it appeared that P'yongyang placed or recruited only a limited number of political agents and sympathizers in the southern part of the peninsula. P'yongyang's agents acted individually for the most part, did not maintain regular contact with one another, and received only intermittent support and guidance.

Peacetime infiltration by North Korean agents was a fact of life in South Korea after the armistice in 1953. There were, however, clear shifts both in the number and method of infiltrations over the years and in their goals. Through the mid 1960's, P'yongyang sent agents primarily to gather intelligence and to try to build a covert political apparatus. This tactic was followed by a dramatic shift to violent attempts to destabilize South Korea, including commando raids along the Demilitarised Zone that occasionally escalated into fire-fights involving artillery. These raids peaked in 1968, when more than 600 infiltrations were reported. From the mid-1970's to the early 1980s, most North Korean infiltration was done by heavily armed reconnaissance teams, which increasingly were intercepted and neutralized by South Korean security forces. Later infiltration by sea became more popular.

The threat from within was a bigger problem. Discontent with the government was kept under control until 1987 by the regime's extensive security services ANSP, DSC, and KNP. Both the ANSP and the DSC not only collected domestic intelligence but also continued "intelligence politics."

Listening to North Korean radio stations remained illegal in the early 90's. The same goes for subversive, pro-North Korean, or pro-communist publications. Authors, publishers, printers, and distributors of such material were subject to arrest.

The Agency for National Security Planning
[renamed National Information Agency (NIA)]

The Agency for National Security Planning (ANSP) was originally established on June 19, 1961 as the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) directly under the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction in the immediate aftermath of the May 16, 1961, military coup. Its duties were to "supervise and coordinate both international and domestic intelligence activities and criminal investigation by all government intelligence agencies, including that of the military." Its mission was akin to that of a combined United States CIA and FBI.

ANSP's ancestry goes back to the Tonghak Peasant War of the 19th century. Since then various rulers of Korea have been using political terrorism backed by foreign powers even to the extreme of selling out Korea to Japanese colonization. It should be recalled that the ruling elite of the Chosun Dynasty wanted Japan to take over. Japan did not invade and occupy Korea, as claimed by some South Korean historians (presumably to cover up the shameful act of the pro-Japanese rulers.)

During 1945-48, the US Army CIC (Counter Intelligence Corps) recruited several thousand Koreans who had worked for the Japanese police prior to 1945 hunting down Korean nationalists. These former Japanese police and informants were organized into ROKA CIC ("KCIC") in 1948. The "KCIC" became "KCIA" after the Korean War and later "ANSP".

Whatever the cover name, the main mission of these folks has been suppression and elimination of political opponents of whoever occupying the 'Blue House'.

The Defense Security Command (DSC)

In 1952 Rhee proclaimed martial law and granted political involvement of the military in intelligence activities. Two military units -the Joint Military Provost Marshal and the army Counterintelligence Corps (CIC)- engaged in extralegal and violent political tactics.

In the 60's, the Provost Marshal's political role declined, while the CIC and its successor, the Army Security Command (ASC), concentrated on internal military security.

The Defense Security Command was formally activated in October 1977. This merger of the ASC, the Navy Security Unit, and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations produced a single, integrated unit under the direct command and operational control of the Minister of National Defense. Although technically subordinate to the minister, the DSC commander operated semi-autonomously and typically had personal, direct access to the president. Given the disparity in service size, the old ASC predominated within the DSC.

The end of the 5th Republic brought the DSC under even more pressure than the ANSP to cut back on its domestic political activities. Both the DSC and the ANSP withdrew from the National Assembly at the same time in 1988. In October 1988, the Minister of National Defense reported to the National Assembly that the DSC would concentrate on counterespionage activities, preventing the spread of communism, and would discontinue the investigation of civilians. Subsequently, the DSC eliminated the Office of Information that had been charged with collecting information on civilians, whose members had been active in local government offices. As a result of this move, 116 small detachments were disbanded.

Korean National Police (KNP)

Organized by the United States Army Military Government in 1945, the Korean National Police force was formally activated in 1948 by the new Korean government and placed under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Even after the establishment of a separate military service in 1948, the police force retained a paramilitary role and was employed in military operations during the Korean War.

Attacked in its early years as a remnant of Japanese colonial rule, the Korean National Police nonetheless still evolved into a relatively modern and effective force. Reforms made after the 1961 military coup began the police force's slow evolution into a professional force. Further improvements came during the 1970s when modern communication, data processing, and crime detection practices were introduced.

In addition to the regular police functions of law enforcement, criminal investigation, and public safety, the KNP is responsible for riot control, countering student demonstrations, and other public disorders. Coastal security, antismuggling operations, coordinating counterespionage operations with the navy and the air force, are also its purview. Combat operations against small-scale North Korean infiltration attempts; the monitoring of foreign residents in South Korea; anti-communist operations, including counter-intelligence activities; are all part of the mission of the KNP. There sometimes is competitive overlap between the KNP, ANSP, and the DSC.

The police station is responsible for maintaining public peace within its own precinct. The police station had seven functioning sections: an administration and public safety section, responsibile for operation and supervision of police substations and boxes, litigation of minor offenses, traffic control, and crime prevention; a security section, responsible for maintaining public order; an investigation section for investigating criminal incidents, lawsuits, booking criminals, custody of suspects, detention-cell management, and transference of cases and suspects involved in criminal cases to prosecution authorities; a criminal section responsibile for crime prevention; a counterespionage section; and an intelligence section, responsible for collection of intelligence and information. The police substation or police box takes preliminary actions in all criminal incidents, civic services, and accidents.

<Sources: World Factbook, FAS, Encarta, Intelligence Threat Handbook, Intelligence Watch Report, Library of Congress Country Studies>

See also Newsletter 38 for more on South Korean CW stations.

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