Prosecutors in Seoul have arrested a South Korean accused of hunting North Korean refugees in China and sending them back to their communist homeland.
The man is also accused of collecting information on people helping the refugees as well as military information for North Korea, officials at the Seoul Central Prosecutors' Office were quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying.
They said the 55-year-old identified only as Kim was recruited by a North Korean agent while staying illegally in China in the late 1990s. He reportedly visited Pyongyang in 2000 for spy training and was sent back to China as an agent searching for refugees. Kim recently returned to South Korea after an accomplice was arrested by Chinese police and jailed. Prosecutors took him into custody upon arrival, Yonhap said.
Prosecutors and the National Intelligence Service (NIS) are expanding their probe to see if Kim had more accomplices involved in espionage, officials were quoted as saying.
Beijing has an agreement with Pyongyang to repatriate those refugees it catches as economic migrants. Refugee and rights groups strongly criticize China's policy, saying the returnees face harsh punishment back in their homeland.