Prosecutors probe lawmaker for links to North Korean spying

NORTH KOREA - Prosecutors have reportedly secured circumstantial evidence that lawmaker Lee Seok-ki and his alleged underground organisation are linked to North Korea's espionage operations against the South.

The politician also visited North Korea as part of the Mount Geumgang tour in 2005 and 2007, but any ulterior motive remains unconfirmed.

Lee, a member of the minor Unified Progressive Party, is accused of conspiring to stage an armed revolt and forming an anti-state organisation called "Revolutionary Organisation." The group is thought to have been formed within the controversial East Gyeonggi Coalition with around 130 members.

The National Assembly was expected to approve a motion to allow prosecutors' arrest of the lawmaker by the deadline on Wednesday.

The circumstantial evidence seized by the authorities allegedly shows that some of the "RO" members slipped into North Korea, contacted the North's espionage group and are connected to "highly trained reconnaissance agents from the North."

The NIS believe that the past activities of Lee and core RO members in Minhyukdang, or the "People's Democratic Revolutionary Party," in the 1990s to uphold North Korea's Juche thought, led to continued links to the North.

The NIS also cited the past visits made individually or in groups by the alleged RO members who have been summoned for search and seizure.

The Unification Ministry, meanwhile, said Lee's North Korea visit during the Roh Moo-hyun administration was made as part of a group tour and that his admittance was approved without an issue. The ministry also said it was difficult to identify any other activity by Lee aside from the tour at the time.

The NIS is reportedly analysing lecture contents, anti-state publications, and other videotapes, CDs and floppy disks that they confiscated from the search and seizure on Aug. 27.

Lee, meanwhile, continued to rebuke the allegations, writing on his Facebook page, "(The NIS) are pulling out all the stops to link me with the North."

"Around 100 officers searched the nooks and crannies during the three-day search and seizure but there was not one piece of evidence that emerged to prove a revolt," Lee claimed.

A 20-member team of legal representatives of Lee and nine members said Tuesday they would file a complaint against the NIS and some of the media that leaked and reported on the transcript of a recorded speech by Lee in a meeting in May. During the meeting, Lee allegedly called on his colleagues to prepare to conduct a "speedy war" against the South should Pyongyang issue an order to attack.

Another UPP lawmaker, Rep. Kim Jae-yeon, also filed a complaint against Saenuri Party Rep. Kim Jin-tae for accusing her of belonging to RO, claiming defamation.

The ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic Party continued under-the-table discussions about the vote on the motion for Lee's arrest at a one-point plenary session.

The Saenuri Party ordered its members to be on standby and vowed it would bulldoze through the motion if it had to without the DP's participation.

"(The motion) should be passed within today or by tomorrow at the latest," said Saenuri floor leader Choi Kyung-hwan.

The DP said it would hold a general meeting in the morning to discuss the party's stance on the vote.

"No action will be compromised or accepted to deny the Constitution and damage the values of democracy," DP floor leader Jun Byung-hun said.

The DP's former presidential candidate Rep. Moon Jae-in also said Lee should forego his immunity to respond to the investigation.

Calls also rose within the parties that Lee should be ousted from the UPP or be rescinded of his lawmaker status.

"If the suspicions of Rep. Lee and other figures are found to be true, the UPP should voluntarily break off or the nation must move toward dissolving the party," said Saenuri secretary-general Hong Moon-jong in a radio interview.

The DP's former floor leader Park Jie-won said, "The UPP should expel (Lee) or let him leave the party voluntarily."

The two parties however remain poles apart on issues other than Lee's case, namely on the calls to reform the NIS slammed for its alleged political interference during last year's presidential election.

Meanwhile, more suspicions headed Lee's way, including a report by the Defence Ministry to the Assembly's Defence Committee which showed that Lee in April requested the ministry to submit data relevant to Korea-US joint counter-provocation plans. The ministry said it refused to submit the materials as they are military secrets. Lee belongs to the Science, ICT, Future Planning, Broadcasting and Communications Committee.