A North Korean defector related to the leader of the communist country was shot and critically wounded Saturday in an attack that South Korean police blamed on North Korea.
The attack raised tensions even higher between North and South Korea, at odds over last week’s defection of a top-ranking North Korean politician. North Korea alleged the politician had been kidnapped, and had threatened unspecified retaliation.
South Korean already had placed its police and military on higher alert after the defection, and called an emergency meeting of government ministers today in response to the shooting.
Lee Han-young, 36, was shot in the chest and head Saturday night outside the apartment where he had been staying in Bundang, a suburb south of Seoul, Bundang police chief Kim Chung-nam said.
“It is believed to be the work of North Korean agents,” Kim said.
Neighbor Park Jong-eun told police he looked out of his apartment when he heard a scream, and saw two men holding a gun to Lee’s head at the entrance to the apartment. The men ran away after the shooting, he said.
Lee uttered only two words after the shooting: “Spy, spy,” said witness Nam Sang-won. Lee is the friend of Nam’s husband, and had been staying in their apartment since November.
Yonhap news agency said police found two shells from a Belgian-made Browning pistol - a standard weapon for North Korean agents.
Lee was unconscious when he arrived at Cha Hospital, and has remained so, doctors said.
“One bullet was removed from his chest, but another bullet is still in his head and his condition has not improved,” Dr. Choi Hoon-kyu said.
Lee, a nephew of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s first wife, Sung Hae-rim, defected to South Korea in 1982. His mother, Sung Hae-rang, defected to the West in 1996.
Lee’s real name is Lee Il Nam. Because of his ties to the North Korean leader, he had been under close protection since his arrival in Seoul, and the defection had been kept secret until last year.
The attack followed Wednesday’s defection of Hwang Jang Yop, a top associate of the North Korean leader. While on a trip to Beijing, Hwang and an aide appeared at the South Korean consulate to ask for asylum.
Hwang and the aide remain at the consulate while North and South Korea dispute handling of them.
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