Page last updated at 09:43 GMT, Monday, 12 April 2010 10:43 UK

Seoul detains 'North Korean refugee hunter'


A South Korean who allegedly hunted down North Korean refugees hiding in China and sent them home has been arrested in Seoul, reports say.

The man, identified only by his surname Kim, is also accused of spying on the South's military and on people aiding refugees, Yonhap news agency reports.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans are thought to have fled to China to escape hardship or persecution at home.

Activists say those sent home face severe punishment or execution.

Mr Kim, 55, was recruited by North Korea during an illegal visit to China in the late 1990s, Yonhap quoted prosecutors in Seoul as saying.

He received espionage training in Pyongyang in 2000 before being sent to China as an agent to hunt defectors, they said.

But he left China after an accomplice was jailed there. He was arrested as he arrived back in South Korea.

Officials said the case was being investigated to see whether Mr Kim had any further accomplices engaged in spying.

Seoul prosecution spokesman Oh Se-in told AP news agency Mr Kim had denied the charges.

Mr Oh said Mr Kim had violated South Korea's National Security Law, which prohibits nationals from engaging in activities which could benefit Pyongyang or having unauthorised contact with North Koreans.

The two countries are still technically at war because the armistice that ended their conflict in 1953 has never been replaced with a peace treaty.

Print Sponsor

Defector 'fleeing S Korea charge'
28 Oct 09 |  Asia-Pacific
Identity win for N Korea refugees
21 Jan 09 |  Asia-Pacific
Burma frees North Korean refugees
01 Jan 09 |  Asia-Pacific
N Korea 'sex spy' jailed in South
15 Oct 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Deadly risks escaping North Korea
29 May 08 |  Asia-Pacific
China 'must not return N Koreans'
16 Apr 08 |  Asia-Pacific

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific