U.S. Navy Worker [Robert Kim] Charged as Spy for South Korea

Robert S. Greenberger, Staff Reporter - Wall Street Journal - September 26, 1996


- A civilian employee of the U.S. Office of naval Intelligence was arrested and charged with illegally passing dozens of documents - some classified "top secret "- to the naval attaché at the embassy of South Korea, a close U.S. ally.

The employee, Robert Kim, was born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1940 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1974, according to an affidavit released yesterday by the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. The affidavit said Mr., Kim was a computer specialist who used his workplace desktop computer, which had access to government information systems, to search for classified documents about military, political and intelligence matters related to North Korea, south Korea and other Asia-Pacific nations.

Although Washington and Seoul have been close allies since the end of World War II, the relationship has often been marked by wariness on the South Korean side, particularly with regard to U.S. intentions toward North Korea. Indeed, some of the documents Mr. Kim is alleged to have passed on contained portions that were labeled "not releasable to South Korea," the affidavit said.

Yesterday, the State Department called in the charge d'affaires of the South Korean Embassy to convey its concern over the incident. In New York, where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly session, Secretary of State Warren Christopher said he was "very disturbed" by the report. However, officials emphasized that the U.S. South Korean relationship was solid and wouldn't be rocked by the incident.

A spokesman at the South Korean Embassy said his government had been informed about the incident by the State Department. "We are now looking into it; we have no further comment at this time," he said.

According to the affidavit, Mr. Kim regularly passed the documents to Baek Dong-II of the South Korean Embassy from may to September this year. While the affidavit didn't name any other embassy officials as being involved, it did note that on Sept. 9, 1996 Messrs. Kim and Baek, who were under U.S. surveillance, played golf at a Maryland golf course with "two high-ranking South Korean naval officials."

A. U.S. official said it was too soon to assess what damage the information alleged to have been passed by Mr. Kim would do to U.S. security.

Mr. Kim, who couldn't be reached for comment, is being held without bail and faces a preliminary hearing on Monday.

  • See Also: The Kim Case Page