ASIO headquarters in Canberra … reports say the agency alleges Yeon Kim, a senior agricultural trade specialist, was involved in “foreign interference” by the Korean spies. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
Relations between Australia and South Korea have been strained after the east Asian economic powerhouse was caught soliciting sensitive information from public servants, and the deportation of a South Korean spy for espionage in 2009 was disclosed.
New details of South Korean espionage in Australia were revealed in an unfair dismissal case before the Fair Work Commission brought by a former intelligence officer with the Australian Federal Police, Bo-Rim “Bryan” Kim.
The commission this week rejected an unfair dismissal appeal by Mr Kim, who previously worked part-time at the South Korean consulate-general in Sydney. He then worked as an information technology staffer for the AFP in Sydney before transferring to criminal intelligence for Sydney Airport.
A Fair Work judgment released this week said Federal Police management terminated his employment in August 2012 after the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation recommended revoking his security clearance.
Commissioner Geoff Bull said ASIO alleged Mr Kim had committed an “act of foreign interference” by passing sensitive information to the intelligence services of a foreign government.
“Mr Kim attempted to diminish the complaints made against him on the basis that he had not attempted to gain any benefit from his conduct and some of the allegations made against him were not accurate.
“In any event, Mr Kim was remorseful and recognised his mistakes,” he said in the judgment.
Mr Bull said Mr Kim told ASIO a consular employee who had sought information from him in January 2009 on terrorism responses at Sydney Airport was understood to be an intelligence officer or “secret squirrel”.
“This consulate employee was deported from Australia in March 2009 for espionage,” his judgment said. “Mr Kim had also been invited to and attended a dinner at this consulate employee’s apartment, which Mr Kim did not consider an important enough contact to report.”
In a separate case, an immigrant and senior trade specialist at the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Yeon Kim, lost his job after an adverse ASIO security assessment against him in 2011.
A Federal Court judgment this year said Dr Kim was alleged to have provided information to an intelligence officer working for what was then described as “country X”.
The information concerned negotiations between Australia and country X on an “important bilateral trade agreement” and its disclosure was alleged to have been an act of foreign interference under the ASIO Act.
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal last year rejected an appeal by Dr Kim over his adverse assessment, but there has been subsequent litigation in the Federal Court on a planned appeal.
In March, Federal Court judge Lindsay Foster refused to extend non-publication orders on details of the case that were sought by the head of ASIO, David Irvine, ruling the information did not go to issues of national security or defence.
Dr Kim, the main author of an ABARES study on the South Korean beef market, is alleged to have met a South Korean diplomat in mid-2010 who was a known officer of that country’s National Intelligence Service.
Mark Skulley and John Kerin
PUBLISHED: 02 May 2013 09:11:00 | UPDATED: 03 May 2013 08:12:40
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