North Korea Calls for Execution of South Korean Ex-President and Aide

June 29, 2017

By CHOE SANG-HUN 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/28/world/asia/north-korea-south-korea-assassination-threat.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea issued standing orders on Wednesday for the “miserable dog’s death” execution of South Korea’s imprisoned former president and her spy chief, and improbably demanded that its southern adversary extradite them.

The execution orders, which the North said could be carried out anytime, anywhere and by any means, amounted to an assassination decree against the imprisoned former president, Park Geun-hye, and Lee Byung-ho, who was director of the National Intelligence Service under Ms. Park.

Conveyed in a statement issued via North Korea’s official news agency, the execution orders came nearly two months after the isolated, nuclear-armed country accused the South Korean intelligence service of conspiring with the C.I.A. to assassinate the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, using biochemical poisons.

“We declare at home and abroad that we will impose death penalty on traitor Park Geun-hye and Mr. Lee,” said the statement from the North’s Ministry of State Security, Ministry of People’s Security and Central Public Prosecutors Office. The statement said the pair’s crime was “hideous state-sponsored terrorism.”

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Ms. Park and Mr. Lee “can never make any appeal even though they meet a miserable dog’s death anytime, at any place and by whatever methods from this moment,” the statement said.

There was no immediate response from Ms. Park, who has been incarcerated since she was forced out on corruption charges in March, or from the National Intelligence Service. But the South Korea spy agency has denied trying to assassinate Mr. Kim.

North Korea said Ms. Park had endorsed an “operation to replace the supreme leadership of the North” since late 2015. It said the plot involved Mr. Kim’s assassination, which it said South Korean agents had planned to disguise as a “car or train accident.” But the plot was eventually abandoned after Ms. Park was impeached in a corruption scandal, North Korea said.

The statement provided no further details of the supposed plot. But on Monday, the Japanese newspaper Asahi, quoting anonymous sources, reported that Ms. Park had approved a plan for the National Intelligence Service to overturn Mr. Kim’s government in 2015. The spy agency has called the report groundless.

Ms. Park’s truncated term in office was punctuated by a spike in tension with North Korea, which had once tried to assassinate her father when he was the dictator of South Korea nearly a half-century ago.

Mr. Kim has accelerated the North’s nuclear weapons program with a torrent of bomb and ballistic missile tests, threatening South Korea and the United States with a “nuclear sword of justice.”

Ms. Park was an advocate of tough sanctions against the North while it fulminated, calling her a “snake” and a “prostitute.”

Mr. Kim, grandson of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung, runs an autocracy especially sensitive to any hint of threat to its leader. North Korea is widely believed to have been responsible for the brazen hacking of Sony Pictures in 2014 as retaliation for “The Interview,” a fictional American film centered around a plot to assassinate Mr. Kim. Although North Korea is known to have tried to assassinate South Korean leaders at least twice, it is highly unusual for the North to claim to be a victim of a South Korean plot.

In 1968, North Korea sent commandos within striking distance of the residence of Ms. Park’s father, Park Chung-hee, before they were repelled in bloody shootouts.

In 1983, North Korean agents tried to assassinate the South Korean dictator at the time, Chun Doo-hwan, while he was visiting Burma, now Myanmar. Bomb explosions killed 21 people, including South Korean cabinet ministers, but Mr. Chun escaped unharmed.

During Ms. Park’s term, South Korean news media reported that South Korean and United States special forces had been training to “decapitate” the North Korean government in the event of renewed conflict on the Korean Peninsula, where an armistice has kept peace since the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953.

Neither Washington nor Seoul had formally acknowledged such training. Still, Mr. Kim was so fearful of assassination that he traveled in the early morning and used one of his deputies’ cars to elude surveillance, the National Intelligence Service told South Korean lawmakers on June 15. He also strengthened his personal security force, the agency said.

North Korea’s relationship with South Korea and the United States has been particularly tense in recent months, as the North has defied demands to halt its testing of ballistic missiles, and may be preparing another nuclear test.

President Trump has warned of “a major, major conflict with North Korea,” sending what he called an “armada” of American warships to Korean waters, but he has also said he could meet with Mr. Kim under the right circumstances.

Mr. Trump is scheduled to meet with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea in Washington on Thursday and Friday. Mr. Moon, who won the May 9 election held after Ms. Park’s impeachment, has been critical of Ms. Park’s North Korea policy and has called for dialogue with the country.

For months after Mr. Trump took office, North Korea was uncharacteristically reticent about assailing him, possibly because of his administration’s secret diplomatic attempts to ease tensions and secure the release of Americans held in the North.

But the mood in Washington soured after the death on June 19 of one of the detained Americans, Otto F. Warmbier, a college student who was released in a coma after 17 months of captivity. President Trump criticized the North’s “brutality.”

Since then, North Korea’s state-run news media has taken a more hostile tone toward Mr. Trump, calling him a “war maniac” and a “lunatic.” In a commentary on Tuesday, the official Korean Central News Agency likened Mr. Trump’s “America First” policy to “Nazism in the 21st century” and compared him to Hitler.

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