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North Korean spy used 'sex as a tool'

A North Korean woman accused of using sex to elicit sensitive information from a South Korean military officer was sentenced Wednesday by a court in the South to five years in prison for spying.

Won Jeong Hwa, 34, was arrested in July on charges of passing classified information to the North, including the locations of key military installations, lists of North Korean defectors and personal information on South Korean military officers.

Prosecutors alleged Won used "sex as a tool" for her mission, dating a South Korean army officer and making him work for her. Investigators also have said she plotted to assassinate South Korean intelligence agents with poison needles, but did not carry out the plan.

On Wednesday, the Suwon District Court, south of Seoul, found Won guilty of all charges and accepted a prosecutors' demand that she be sentenced to five years in prison, said Judge Lim Min-sung, who serves as a court spokesman.

"The defendant approached soldiers and intelligence agents through the medium of sex and carried out secret espionage activities for a long time using her (purported) status as a defector," the court said in the ruling, according to Lim.

In issuing its sentence the court also took into consideration that the information she sent to the North did not pose serious threats to the country's security and that she has repented and cooperated with the investigation, Lim said.

In an earlier hearing, Won submitted a written statement to the court, admitting to the charges against her and offering repentance for her past activities as a spy.

Spying for North Korea is a crime in South Korea that carries the death penalty as a maximum sentence.

Won is the second North Korean convicted on spy charges in South Korea in a decade.

She entered the South in 2001 after marrying a South Korean businessman in China, falsely reporting to authorities that she was a defector from the North.

The movie-like details in the charges against Won have drawn keen media attention, with some newspapers calling her Korea's version of "Mata Hari," the notorious dancer-turned-World War I spy.

The case has further frayed South Korea's already troubled relations with the North, as the communist nation protested angrily that Seoul has fabricated the case to sully Pyongyang's image.

The two sides fought the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula technically still at war.