A little-known South Korean Christian group, The Caleb Mission, is doing its best to expand what outsiders know about neighboring North Korea.
The Caleb Mission has gained some recognition in recent months for releasing clandestine video of life inside the reclusive North, and now it has provided VOA with what it says is a secret North Korean military manual that regional security analysts consider authentic.
Reverend Kim Sung-eun runs the Caleb Mission in Cheonan, about 80 kilometers south of the capital, Seoul. His wife, he says, is a former lieutenant in North Korea's army. She is one of 30 or so defectors from the North who are frequently seen at the mission.
Kim says he is in regular contact with collaborators inside North Korea. Some secretly videotape what is going on in the country, which is virtually sealed off from the outside world. Others, he says, smuggle out official documents.
Kim says he has information detailing North Korean-sanctioned manufacturing and exporting of illicit drugs and the country's extensive network of internment and re-education camps for political prisoners.
The pastor gave VOA a partial copy of what appears to be a 2005 North Korean military manual that details electronic warfare countermeasures, such as using radar-absorbing paint to camouflage jets and ships. Kim says they decided to release the manual because their colleagues inside North Korea are taking great risks by working on their projects. Thus, he explains, he wants to see some recognition for their efforts.
Daniel Pinkston, a long-time North Korea scholar and an analyst in Seoul for the International Crisis Group, considers the document important. "It's certainly useful for analysts on the outside. And I would agree anyone in North Korea, any KPA (Korean People's Army) soldiers or officers who would smuggle such a document out of the country, if they were to be caught, would suffer serious consequences. It would be a great risk to them, of course," he said.