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Posted : 2012-12-07 17:54
Updated : 2012-12-07 17:54

'Missionary poisoned by NK agent'

By Kim Rahn

The death of a South Korean missionary in China last year, initially reported as due to an unknown cause, was caused by a poison used by North Korean agents, according to the results of an investigation.

The investigation was cited in a court ruling on a North Korean agent who was sentenced to four years in prison on Wednesday for feigning a defection to the South in June in order to carry out espionage activities. The prosecution submitted the report to the Seoul Central District Court as part of evidence of his activities and the relationship he had with the deceased missionary.

Until his death in August last year, the 46-year-old missionary, Kim Chang-hwan, served as a Christian evangelist to North Korean residents and defectors in Dandong, China. He was trying to catch a taxi in front of a department store in the Chinese city but suddenly fell down foaming at the mouth. He was taken to a hospital but died hours later.

Kim's corpse was covered in bruises and rashes prompting his bereaved family and colleagues to suspect foul play in his death. They claimed it was highly likely that professional assassins with possible links agents to North Korea attacked him with a poisoned needle or some other method.

An autopsy, however, did not find any toxic chemicals or evidence of murder. The family cremated the body about 10 days after the death.

According to the court ruling, in March 2010 the North Korean agent was ordered to keep an eye on Kim who was helping North Koreans defect to the South. The agent in question contacted Kim by pretending to be a defector, and reported Kim's activities to the North's intelligence agency.

In the ruling, the court said, "Based on the investigation report from the prosecution, we confirmed that Kim was killed using neostigmine bromide, the poison used by North Korean intelligence agents." It is not stated how the cause of death was ascertained, but rumors are circulating in the South Korean media that clothing from the missionary was obtained enabling investigators here to conclude that he was poisoned. Court officials said they ruled on the North Korean agent's case based on the investigation report by the prosecution, who said the report was from the National Intelligence Service. But the intelligence agency declined to comment on the case.

It is known that the toxicity of neostigmine bromide is five times stronger than potassium cyanide. A small dose of the chemical can cause apnea and a heart attack.

Another North Korean agent, arrested in October last year for attempting to kill anti-Pyongyang activist Park Sang-hak, had needles with the same chemical poison.

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