As you might imagine, South Korea is not a big source country for asylum seekers. So it’s newsworthy when someone receives asylum from that country–particularly when that someone is a former operative with Korea’s top spy agency, the National Intelligence Service (“NIS”).
Writing for the Korea Times, Donald Kirk reports on the asylum case of Kim Ki-sam, a South Korean intelligence agent who blew the whistle on the NIS and former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. Mr. Kirk also served as an expert witness at Kim Ki-sam’s asylum hearing in Philadelphia and wrote a book with Mr. Kim’s help, Korea Betrayed: Kim Dae-jung and Sunshine.
The story goes that Kim Ki-sam made public information about the “tremendous investment of time, money and resources that went into arranging the June 2000 summit between Kim Dae-jung [the former president of South Korea] and Kim Jong-il [the late and not-so-missed dictator of North Korea].” Apparently, “hundreds of millions of dollars… flowed into North Korean coffers to grease the path to the summit while the NIS and other agencies lobbied hard for years for the Nobel Prize for Kim Dae-jung.”
Kim Dae-jung won the Noble Peace Prize for his “Sunshine Policy” towards the North, but the award was tainted by allegations that vast sums of money flowed to the North while at the same time the South ignored human rights abuses in North Korea.
The asylum case apparently wasn’t easy. Mr. Kim first applied for asylum in 2002. An IJ granted asylum in 2008, but DHS appealed. The case was remanded to the IJ and Mr. Kim presented his claim again. Finally, last month, the IJ granted asylum and DHS agreed not to appeal. Mr. Kim was ably represented by Janet Hinshaw-Thomas of Prime Immigration Ministry in Philadelphia.
Of course, all this makes me think of another supposed whistle blower from a democratic country–Bradley Manning, who is currently awaiting trial (and facing a possible death sentence) for revealing classified information to Wikileaks. Perhaps it is ironic that we grant asylum to one whistle blower while we potentially put another to death, but I think the cases are distinguishable. One difference is that Bradley Manning publicized documents that mention Afghan civilians by name. This put the civilians in serious jeopardy of Taliban attack. As far as I can see, Kim Ki-sam’s actions have not put people’s lives at risk. Ironic or not, the South Korean whistle blower has now received political asylum from the U.S. government.
Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.