An appeals court on Friday upheld a lower court’s ruling to acquit a former Seoul City official of espionage charges.
Yoo Woo-seong, a 34-year-old of North Korean-Chinese descent, was accused of spying for Pyongyang while working at the Seoul municipal government from June 2011 to January 2013.
The Seoul High Court, however, found Yoo guilty of hiding his Chinese citizenship when entering the country in 2004 and violating the Act on the Protection and Settlement Support of Residents Escaping from North Korea.
The court sentenced Yoo to one year in prison with a two-year stay of execution, and charged him a fine of about 25.6 million won ($24,600).
“The defendant illegally obtained 85 million won in subsidies from the government by pretending to be a North Korean defector. He also helped his sister enter the country as a North Korean defector,” presiding judge Kim Heung-joon said in his ruling.
The court said it took into consideration that Yoo does not have a criminal record in Korea and acknowledged his patriotism.
Prosecutors initially requested a seven-year jail term for Yoo, claiming that he collected and relayed information on some 200 North Korean defectors to Pyongyang while working as a government official.
The Seoul Central District Court gave Yoo a not-guilty verdict in August 2013, further bolstering allegations that the country’s spy agency concocted documents to bolster the prosecutors’ case against him.
By Suk Gee-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)