Bloomberg News

Australia Federal Police Worker Fired on South Korea Spy Charges

May 02, 2013

An Australian federal police employee passed classified information to the South Korean Consulate General in Sydney, according to a judgment from the country’s workplace tribunal in a spy case involving the trade partners.

Bo-Rim (Bryan) Kim, an information technology officer at the AFP, was fired from the force in August for failing to report his associations with people from a foreign government and disclosing confidential documentation to a foreign government representative. Kim, who denied wrongdoing, lost his appeal to Fair Works Australia in a judgment released yesterday.

Kim’s conduct put him “in a position where he was likely to be vulnerable to exploitation,” Commissioner Geoffrey Bull wrote in his decision. “Whether Mr. Kim failed to report these contacts due to his naivety or poor judgment does not detract from this conduct constituting a valid reason for dismissal.”

The ruling on Kim’s appeal, which outlines allegations of spying, coincides with the release of previously sealed files in the Federal Court of Australia in Canberra. South Korean spies were cultivating public servants from 2009 to obtain trade secrets with Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences trade specialist Yeon Kim being fired for disclosing sensitive information, according to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald website today.

South Korea is Australia’s fourth-largest trading partner, a nation with a “highly complementary” economy and a consumer of its liquefied natural gas, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said during a visit two years ago. Korea Gas Corp. (036460) is a partner in the $16 billion Gladstone LNG project in Queensland state led by Santos Ltd. (STO), Australia’s third-largest oil producer, while Samsung Electronics Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. have become “household names,” she said.

Trade Agreement

The two countries are working on a free-trade agreement.

“In line with the long-standing practice of Australian governments, I can’t comment on matters of security or intelligence,” Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr said in response to reporters’ questions in Sydney today about the South Korean spy allegations.

An official in the South Korean consulate in Sydney today declined to comment on either of the Kims’ cases.

Bo-Rim Kim, while working as an intelligence officer for the AFP, went to dinner at an apartment of a consular employee whom he had earlier described as an “intelligence officer” or “secret squirrel,” Bull wrote in his judgment. That employee had earlier requested information about what AFP’s security response would be to a terrorist attack at the Sydney airport, Bull said. The consulate employee was deported from Australia in March 2009 for espionage, Bull said.

The Australian Security and Intelligence Organization, the country’s spy agency, sued to prevent disclosure of Yeon Kim’s case at the request of the South Korean spy agency, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Yeon Kim had lost his security clearance after Australian investigators found he had been involved in clandestine contact with and provided sensitive information to an officer of the Korean spy service, the newspaper said, citing court documents.

Federal Court Justice Lindsay Foster ruled that keeping the information secret couldn’t be justified, the newspaper said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Schneider in Sydney at jschneider5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.net


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