World Bulletin/News Desk
Agents from South Korea's spy agency the National Intelligence Service (NIS) have tied to secure secret information about Australian trade, triggering the dismissal of an Australian public servant over his links to the group.
The spy case dates back to 2010 and relates to efforts by South Korea to find information about Australian agricultural trade as the two nations were in early negotiations on a free trade agreement.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr refused to comment on details of the case on Thursday, citing "matters of seurity or intelligence", but said the issue had caused no diplomatic tension with Seoul, a strong ally and key trading partner.
"I believe the relationship with the Republic of Korea is so strong, so robust, that this will have no effect on it," Carr told reporters.
The case is embarrassing for both Australia and South Korea as they try to forge a closer economic relationship.
South Korea is Australia's fourth biggest trade partner, with bilateral trade worth more than $32 billion. The two countries launched free trade talks in 2009, but have yet to clinch a deal.
The case became public after Australia's Federal Court lifted secrecy orders surrounding the incident.
The public servant, Yeon Kim, is fighting in the courts to overturn a decision by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to strip him of his security clearance, which means he has been effectively sacked from his job in the Agriculture Department.
In a minor victory for Kim, Federal Court Judge Lindsay Foster ruled that suppression orders could be removed from the case, as secrecy could prejudice his legal battles.
No South Korean diplomats were expelled over the incident.
The ASIO said Kim had engaged in "inappropriate activities". In 2011, it found Kim had failed to report contacts with the South Korean officers and that he had been successfully cultivated by South Korea's NIS.
Kim and his legal team, and the South Korean Embassy in Canberra, all refused to comment on the case.Last Mod: 02 Mayıs 2013, 13:07