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North Korean Mata Hari in alleged cyber-spy plot

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Updated South Korea has accused its neighbour North Korea of cyber-espionage during the trial of a suspected Mata Hari-style spy. However some political commentators are suggesting that the case against alleged spy Won Jeong Hwa is unsupported by evidence and riddled with inconsistencies.

North Korea's electronic warfare division allegedly carried out targeted Trojan horse malware attacks against a list of senior officials drawn up by Won. Won faces charges of treason over allegations she obtained military secrets for the Communist north after seducing army officers in the south.

The 35-year-old reportedly visited military bases under the guise of a defector lecturing about the evils of Kim II Sung's communist regime, all the while allegedly working for the north.

The supposed refugee allegedly delivered 100 name cards to military intelligence officers in the north. Shortly afterwards some of these officers began to receive spyware-laden emails, according to local reports by English language South Korean daily Digital Chosunilbo.

Won is also suspected of passing photographs of south Korean military bases over to the North and attempting to locate defectors since her arrival to the south as a supposed refugee in 2001.

North Korea is the latest country alleged to have engaged in cyber-espionage. Previous accusations, strongly denied, have focused on allegations that China used targeted spyware attacks to gain access to compromised PCs in western businesses and government departments.

However left leaning Korean daily The Hankyoreh has casts doubt on accusations of North Korean cyber-espionage and the case against Won.

"The only real evidence that Won Jeong-hwa is a spy is her own testimony, which contradicts itself. Most of the intelligence she is said to have passed on to the North is easily available on the internet, and almost none of it consists of state secrets," an editorial in the paper states.

It suggests the prosecution is an attempt to whip up anti-communist sentiment and paranoia about communist agents in government agencies for political motives.

Talk of a new McCarthyism in south Korea may seem a bit over the top to outsiders but history offers a possible precedent, again involving a women accused of espionage.

Alleged spy Kim Soo Im was executed by south Korean authorities on treason days after the outbreak of the Korean War.

Rather than being a Mata Hari-style spy who slept with a senior US officer and passed on military secrets to her former lover in the north, newly released archive documents suggest Kim may have been innocent. Declassified US National Archive documents, released after 60 years, paint Kim as the "victim of crude fabrication by a paranoid South Korean Government and a cover-up by the Americans", The Times reports. ®

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