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North Koreans jailed in assassination plot

By the CNN Wire Staff
Hwang Jang-yop, North Korea's highest-profile defector, was the target of an assassination plot.
Hwang Jang-yop, North Korea's highest-profile defector, was the target of an assassination plot.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Two former military officers posed as defectors to South Korea
  • They were arrested for plotting to kill a former senior member of Kim Jong-il's party
  • The former politician defected to South Korea in 1997
  • The two men were sentenced to 10 years in prison

(CNN) -- A South Korean court sentenced two North Korean military officers Thursday to 10 years in prison for plotting to assassinate a high-profile defector who once worked for dictator Kim Jong-il, South Korea's news agency said.

The two men, known only as Kim, 36, and Tong, 34, were arrested in April for conspiring to kill Hwang Jang-yop, 88, a senior politician who defected to South Korea in 1997, the Yonhap news agency reported. Hwang was a high-ranking member of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party and had received repeated death threats for speaking out against his former boss.

Posing as defectors, they arrived in Seoul last December under orders from a North Korean espionage unit, Yonhap said. The Seoul Central District Court found the statements of the spies about their motives, infiltration routes and planned crimes convincing enough to convict them on violating South Korea's national security law.

Kim and Tong had pleaded guilty to the charges at their trial, Yonhap said.

Prosecutors had demanded 15-year sentences but the court said it mitigated their jail terms because the assassination attempts were not actually carried out and they cooperated in the investigation.