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Doubts remain about details of Kim's death

Spy agency says N.K. leader’s train was not moving at time of death


Doubts about the location and time of Kim Jong-il’s death continued Wednesday with intelligence gathered by South Korea supporting theories that the North Korean leader died under circumstances different from those described by Pyongyang.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that the National Intelligence Service had evidence that Kim’s train was stationary at the announced time of this death, casting doubt on Pyongyang’s claim that Kim died in a moving train.

National Intelligence Service Director Won Sei-hoon reportedly told the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee that the NIS confirmed that Kim’s train was stationery at the time when he is supposed to have died, casting doubt on whether Pyongyang has been truthful in its account.

On Monday North Korean media announced that Kim died at about 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 17 while riding his private train on a field guidance tour.

According to members of the Intelligence Committee, Won reported to them that the NIS confirmed from U.S. military satellite photographs taken on that day that the train was stationery at a train station in Pyongyang near one of Kim’s homes.

Won also reportedly told the committee that the NIS had kept track of Kim’s movements up to Dec. 15, but lost track from the following day until the time of his death, and that there was some evidence to suggest that Kim died before setting off for tour.

The Ministry of National Defense, which was reportedly of the opinion that the train was in motion at the time of Kim’s death, backed up the NIS chief’s report on Wednesday.

A Defense Ministry official said that reports of the ministry and the NIS arriving at opposite conclusions regarding the train’s status at the time of Kim’s death were false and that all intelligence is shared between the military, the NIS and the U.S., making it improbable that the two organizations had conflicting intelligence.

However, the NIS report and subsequent analysis that North Korea may have been less than truthful regarding the circumstances of its leader’s death may not be its final position.

According to Intelligence committee chairman Rep. Kwon Young-se of the Grand National Party, the NIS analysis of the situation is “not finally confirmed.”

Speaking on a local radio station, Kwon said that as far as he was aware, the NIS analysis that Kim may not have died on his train is not final, and that while the South Korean government should be aware of the facts, it would be inappropriate to make public comments about the issue.

Regarding the alleged disparity in the intelligence gathered by the NIS and the military, which the Ministry of National Defense has since refuted, Kwon said that it would be a “grave” issue if the two organizations had different intelligence and that the two should share information and collaborate in analyzing the data.

On the subject of calls to penalize the NIS director for the organization’s lack of information regarding Kim’s death, Kwon said that it is not appropriate to discuss such issues at present, but that it will have to be discussed at some other point in time.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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