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N.Korea suspected in poison-needle attacks

North Korea is being accused - although not officially - of using poisoned needles against activists who help defectors escape, writes Barbara Demick in the Los Angeles Times.

Image of a hypodermic needle, on Flickr Image of a hypodermic needle, on Flickr
  • Korea
  • October 11, 2011
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On a Sunday evening in August, a middle-aged South Korean pastor collapsed suddenly near a taxi stand in Dandong, a Chinese city on the Yalu River overlooking North Korea. (Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times)

The 46-year-old, who used the name Patrick Kim, had a discolored complexion, spots on his fingers and limbs, flecks of foam on his mouth. He was dead by the time he reached the hospital.

The pastor was a human rights activist who secretly helped people slip out of North Korea into China. And his family and South Korean diplomats believe he was killed by North Korean agents in retaliation. The weapon of choice: most likely a poisoned needle.

"We are assuming there was a murder perpetrated. Although the evidence is circumstantial, it points strongly to North Korea," said Lee Dong-bak, a retired official of the South Korean intelligence service and now an academic in Seoul. "The poison needle has been in use by North Korean special operations for a long time."

The accusations come as North Korean state-run media have threatened retaliation against South Korean activists trying to topple Kim Jong Il's regime. The activists, many of them evangelical Christians, not only smuggle out defectors but also send anti-Kim literature and Bibles across the border, sometimes by attaching them to balloons that float across the demilitarized zone between the two nations.

FULL STORY

North Korea suspected in poison-needle attacks (Los Angeles Times)

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stevendepolo on Flickr

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