Politics & Security
Fukushima Hoax Exposed: North Korean Spies in Powerful SK Federation Fuel Anti-Japan Sentiment
North Korean spies were ordered to spread false rumors about the Fukushima power plant’s treated water to "foment anti-Japanese" sentiment in South Korea.
SEOUL — An investigation by South Korean authorities has uncovered that North Korean agents instructed spies to stir up anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea. These spies were embedded within the leadership of South Korea's largest trade union federation. Under the direction of Pyongyang, the spies used the accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to fan the flames of anti-Japanism in South Korea. This has driven Japan and South Korea into serious conflict.
The broader context of the incident is the policy of Japanese-South Korean estrangement. This was masterminded by the late North Korean Chairman Kim Il Sung in his strategy for conquering South Korea. The news about North Korean spies in South Korean labor unions serves as a stark reminder that half a century later, South Korean society is still under the sway of this tactic.
'Foment Anti-Japanese Ethnic Korean Sentiment'
In January, South Korean police and the National Intelligence Service raided the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) headquarters. It is South Korea's largest trade union federation. At the end of March, four key KCTU executives and former leaders were arrested on suspicion of violating the National Security Act. The charges included contacting North Korean agents in Southeast Asia, receiving orders from them, and engaging in anti-government activities.
The authorities have seized more than 100 written directives from North Korea and have been working to clarify the details of the situation.
According to South Korean newspapers including Munhwa Ilbo and JoongAng Ilbo, a directive from May 2021 stated, "Use the issue of the discharge of radioactive water to foment anti-Japanese ethnic Korean sentiment." The directive also aimed to "drive the conflict between Tokyo and the Seoul regime beyond retrieval."
It was issued shortly after the Japanese government decided to discharge treated water from the Fukushima power plant into the ocean.
Spread Rumors, Drive Out Japanese Nationals, Burn the Japanese Flag
In July 2019, the Japanese government announced stricter export controls against South Korea. Following this, North Korean spies were instructed to "intensify the hostility between South Korean authorities and Japan and implement practical measures to further stoke anti-Japanese sentiment across all social strata." Specific methods listed included public burnings of the Japanese flag, movements to kick Japanese nationals out of South Korea, and lightning rallies (sudden rallies without warning) targeting the Japanese embassy and Japanese consulates.
In May 2021, a North Korean operative group instructed a member of another left-wing political organization who had been indicted for espionage to "exacerbate public anxiety by prolifically spreading false rumors on the Internet about the appearance of mutant fish off the coast of Fukushima."
Large-scale anti-Japanese demonstrations took place in the summer of 2019 as a boycott of Japanese products gained momentum. One of the organizations that planned and led the demonstrations was the KCTU. The directives from North Korean agents exploited the anxiety felt by many South Koreans over the release of treated water from the nuclear plant. Furthermore, they preyed on the susceptibility of South Korean society to anti-Japanese agitation.
Kim Il Sung's Japan-South Korea Alienation Directive
Yoo Dongryul is the director of the Korea Institute of Liberal Democracy and an expert on North Korea's foreign operations. Yoo (also known as Yoo Dong-ryul) has observed that these directives can be understood in the context of the "two-strap tactic." It was a tactic indicated by Chairman Kim Il Sung in his speeches in 1969 and 1972.
In his analogy, Kim compared South Korea to a gat (traditional Korean hat). Japan and the US are the strings that fasten the hat to the head. The dictator explained the importance of dividing South Korea from its American and Japanese allies.
"If but one of the two strings, either the United States or Japan, of the Southern Chōsen [South Korean] regime can be severed, it will give way like a hat blown away in the wind."
Yoo explains that the recent anti-Japanese directives illustrate that there has been no change in North Korea's ambition. Pyongyang remains firm in its desire to "communize and unify" the Korean peninsula under a socialist regime. And they aim to achieve this through the proliferation of sympathizers in the south.
EXPLAINER: The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU)
Since its establishment in 1995, the organization has been staunchly anti-American, anti-Japan, and pro-North Korean. At that time, it was known as the National Confederation of Trade Unions (NCTU).
The KCTU is known for its radical demonstrations and strikes in which protesters readily engage in violence. It has become the largest national labor union organization in South Korea, with approximately 1.2 million members. This happened under the former Moon Jae In administration, which counted labor unions among its support bases.
In 2016, the confederation organized a demonstration to force former President Park Geun-hye to resign. The Yoon Suk-yeol administration announced a policy of decisive legal measures. This led to the suspension of a large-scale strike by a KCTU-affiliated group in December of last year. The conflict has continued to deepen, with the KCTU repeatedly staging demonstrations against the Yoon administration.
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(Read the article in Japanese.)
Author: Norio Sakurai
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