By Kim Rahn
North Korea abducted four high-ranking military officers from South Korea in 1999, a former journalist claimed at a court hearing Friday.
The authorities said they can’t confirm the allegation as such information is confidential.
The kidnapping was disclosed by a former journalist, surnamed Jeong, who testified as a witness Thursday in a hearing for Park Chae-seo, former intelligence agent code-named “Black Venus” who is suspected of espionage.
At the hearing, Jeong said “yes” when asked by Park’s lawyer whether he had known that a lieutenant colonel from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, surnamed Jeong, was kidnapped by North Korea near the border between China and the North in 1999.
He also said he knew a Col. Lee was arrested by the North and another two colonels, Park and Lee, were abducted and arrested by the communist state.
There were no further details during the trial about exactly where and for what reasons they were kidnapped or arrested.
Jeong said he was investigating the story at that time but stopped after his bosses decided the story should not be made public.
As to the information, the Ministry of Defense said it can neither confirm nor deny it because it is classified.
Prosecutors said former agent Park talked about the kidnapping during questioning but they didn’t investigate it because their probe was limited to his collection of military secrets, adding the abduction is Park’s own claim.
Park became acquainted with North Korean agents through his activities for the National Intelligence Service (NIS) since mid-1990. He was dismissed in 1998 from the NIS amid allegations involving the leakage of confidential documents.
He was arrested last October and sentenced to seven years in prison for handing over nine confidential military manuals to the North Korean agents between 2003 and 2005. His lawyer claimed the North had already obtained those manuals through the allegedly kidnapped officers.