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Reports: South Korea says defector is spy who plotted assassination

AFP - Getty Images file

Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. The photo was photo taken June 4, 2010 as he was talking to members of the South Korean press about the need for the North to reform in order to avert economic collapse, and the end of its political regime. He lives mainly in Macau.

Prosecutors in South Korea have filed spying charges against a North Korean who they say was involved in plotting to assassinate Kim Jong Nam — the wayward son of former dictator Kim Jong Il — the French news agency AFP reported.

The authorities said the suspected spy arrived in South Korea in the spring posing as a defector who fled the communist-ruled North by way of China, the report said.

When his identity was exposed, he confessed to being part of a failed plot to stage a hit-and-run car accident in China in 2010 targeting Kim Jong Nam, who lives mainly in the Chinese territory of Macau, the report said.

South Korea's Chosun Ilbo reported that when the man was arrested in late September he told authorities that he was under instructions to settle in South Korea and await orders. He later said he was ordered to seek out Park Sang-hak, a North Korean defector-turned-activist who sends anti-Pyongyang messages across the border to North Korea via helium balloons.

Kim Jong Nam is the eldest of four known offspring of Kim Jong Il and has been living mainly in the Chinese gambling mecca of Macau for more than a decade. He has also been spotted periodically in Beijing where he reportedly owns another home.

Jong Nam is thought to have fallen out of favor with his father and his secretive regime in 2001, when he botched an effort to enter Japan on a false passport, reportedly because he wanted to visit Tokyo's Disneyland.

His younger half-brother, Kim Jung Un, thought to be about 28, has assumed the top positions in North Korea's government, Communist party and military after their father’s death in late 2011.

Kim Jong Nam has spoken to members of the international press corps on occasion, discussing the need for economic reform in North Korea and asserting his opinion that the dynastic succession will not work in his homeland.

South Korea’s press has recently noted that Kim Jong Nam has largely disappeared from the public eye since shortly after his father’s death in December 2011.

Kim Jong Un is the third in the family to rule the isolated totalitarian country following his father and grandfather Kim Il Sung.

Three years of fighting between China-backed North Korea and U.S.-backed South Korea ended with an armistice in 1953, but the two sides are technically still at war and divided by a demilitarized zone near the 38th parallel.

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