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North Korean Spy Poses as Filipino Scholar

July 22, 1996

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ For more than a decade, he was known as a respected Filipino scholar, teaching history at Seoul’s Dankook University and contributing articles to local newspapers.

But the man who called himself Mohamad Ali Kanso actually was a North Korean who once worked as an interpreter for the late leader Kim Il Sung, South Korea’s spy agency said today.

Kanso is really Chung Su Il, a North Korean born in China who came to South Korea in 1984 after convincing authorities he was a Filipino, the Agency for National Security Planning said.

The case was the first in which a North Korean spy ``has successfully disguised himself as a foreigner for such a long time,″ the agency said in a televised news conference.

Chung, a 62-year-old assistant professor of history, was arrested at a Seoul hotel on July 3 on charges of illegally communicating with North Korea. He was caught sending a fax to North Korea _ his fifth this year, the agency said. His reports covered South Korea and U.S. policies on the communist state and South Korea’s latest arms procurement programs.

Authorities said they later discovered more than 160 spy items _ including code books and a poison capsule for suicide _ hidden at his Seoul home, some behind a framed doctor’s certificate hanging on the wall.

His case was referred to prosecutors today for indictment. Under Korean law, Chung can be sentenced to death. North and South Korea fought a bloody war in the early 1950s and remain technically at war.

In a videotaped confession shown during the news conference, Chung said he was born as an ethnic Korean in China and graduated from Beijing University, majoring in Arabic.

He worked at the Chinese Embassy in Morocco in 1958-1963, but grew unhappy with what he said was Beijing’s discrimination toward the minority Korean community and emigrated to North Korea in 1964.

In North Korea, the agency said, he worked as an Arabic interpreter for Kim Il Sung in the 1960s and early 1970s while teaching at the Pyongyang Foreign Language University.

In 1974, he was recruited as a spy. Facial features unusual for an ethnic Korean _ including a dark complexion, eyelids that don’t look east-Asian and a beard _ helped his disguise, the agency said.

In South Korea, he married a nurse, although he has a wife and three children in North Korea.