Intelligence: September 26, 2003


The South Korean government, under pressure from the media,  and former members of a top secret intelligence operation, admitted that they have been sending agents into North Korea for over half a century. Most embarrassing was the admission that, from 1951 to 1994, the Defense Information Command recruited and trained some 13,000 agents. But some 60 percent of those sent north were killed or captured. Many of those who were captured became double agents. After the war ended in 1953, North Korea developed into the most tightly controlled police state in history. Getting agents into North Korea was less of a problem than just having them survive once they got there. A large percentage of the North Korean population either worked for the secret police, or serve as unpaid informers. In East Germany, after the wall came down, it was discovered that some 1.5 percent of East Germans were so employed. It is believed that the percentage is even higher in North Korea. The South Korean agents apparently did develop some contacts in the north, for at least 500 former agents are alive and agitating for additional compensation for their nerve-wracking efforts in the north, both for themselves and for the families of the many who did not come back and are known to be dead. There are also 200 former agents who got out of the north, but were wounded in the process. It is not known if the Defense Information Command commandos are still being sent north. It is thought that the program was slowly phased out in the early 1990s. After the Soviet Union collapsed, it was believed that the communist government in North Korea would soon collapse as well and that it would be a friendly gesture to stop the commando operations. Collapse in the north didn't happen, although the economy up there completely disintegrated, sending an increasing number of desperate North Korean refugees into China and Russia. South Korean intelligence has gotten a lot of these refugees into South Korea, where debriefing the refugees yields more information on what is going up north than the Defense Information Command commandos ever did.


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