North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

DPRK Officials Sentenced For Attempted Theft of Research On Rocket Vehicle Engine Systems

South Korean media reported on 9 June (Saturday) that Ryu Song Chol and Ri Tae Kil, two DPRK nationals, were arrested by Ukranian authorities in July 2011 while photographing academic dissertations on rocket engine system technologies at Yuzhnoye Design Bureau.  Ryu and Ri, who worked at the DPRK’s trade office in Belarus, were convicted and sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment.  Mainichi Shimbun reports:

The North Koreans, identified as Ryu Song Chul and Lee Tae Kil, were arrested for spying in July after they tried to steal classified technology from the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau in Dnipropetrovsk. The sentence was handed down by a Ukrainian court late last month.

The design bureau is in charge of rocket and satellite development and was responsible for making R-36M multi-warhead intercontinental ballistic missile, which has the 11,000-kilometer range, during the Soviet era.

Ukraine’s Security Service, which carried out the arrest, said the two worked at North Korea’s trade representative office in Minsk, Belarus, but had made contact with a researcher at Yuzhnoye.

It said the researcher had notified authorities of the contact and helped set up a trap where the two were apprehended as they took photos of the classified data.

The technology that the two North Korean sought was centered on rocket vehicles and in particular liquid fuel engine systems that could greatly increase the range of a rocket.

Local experts said that if Pyongyang secured the technology, it would have helped it build rockets that could reach the continental United States.

The source, meanwhile, said the two men pleaded innocent of all charges and plan to file an appeal to a higher court.

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