South Korean spies swoop on leftist party

SEOUL - South Korean spies raided the homes and offices of a minor leftist party on Wednesday and made three arrests on rare charges of seeking to start a rebellion in support of North Korea.

National Intelligence Service officers swooped on key members of the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) in Seoul including Lee Seok-Ki, a member of parliament. Lee was not arrested because he has parliamentary immunity.

The raids sparked an angry reaction from the party, which accused the conservative government of President Park Geun-Hye of starting a new "Yushin dictatorship" - a reference to the authoritarian rule of her late father Park Chung-Hee.

"The National Intelligence Service (NIS), commanded by the Suwon Prosecutors' Office, are currently in the course of implementing warrants to search and arrest," an NIS spokesman told AFP.

A spokesman at the prosecutors' office said three UPP members faced charges of seeking to start a rebellion and supporting the enemy - North Korea - in breach of the strict National Security Law.

Conservatives have accused Lee and the UPP of supporting the North Korean cause and ideology, a charge they flatly deny.

YTN television quoted an unidentified NIS official as saying that the UPP members had a plan to blow up infrastructure including communication networks in the South in times of a crisis with the North.

The UPP say the crackdown on them was aimed at fending off criticism over an alleged NIS attempt to rig last year's presidential election results.