Australia

Australia smashes South Korea spy ring

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 May, 2013, 1:12am
AFP

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A South Korean spy ring has been uncovered in Australia trying to cultivate public servants to obtain trade secrets, but officials insisted relations with Seoul remained robust.

The Sydney Morning Herald said previously suppressed details revealed that South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) had sought "to obtain sensitive information" on trade talks between Canberra and Seoul.

It said the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) alleged that a senior Australian agricultural trade specialist was involved in "foreign interference" by Korean spies and had been "successfully cultivated".

The man participated in Australia-South Korea free-trade agreement talks in late 2009, but lost his security clearance and job with the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.

Although engaged in what ASIO described as "inappropriate activities" harmful to Australia's interests, no South Korean spies had been expelled from Australia.

The details came to light after the trade specialist said his contact with South Korean diplomats was purely social and appealed against his sacking to the Federal Court.