The saga of a woman believed to be an ex-Aum Shinrikyo member who entered North Korea in August seeking asylum has taken another turn: she at one time spied on the cult for the government.
The woman, who reportedly entered North Korea via China, was identified by North Korean media last week as Kazumi Kitagawa, 29. The Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, while confirming the report, has refused to disclose the woman’s name, age or other details, citing privacy concerns.
Kitagawa sold information to the Public Security Investigation Agency between 2000 and 2001, former agency official Hironari Noda told The Japan Times on Wednesday.
Aum Shinrikyo officials have said they once had a member with the same name and birth date. They said Kitagawa admitted to them that she had sold information about Aum to the agency. Aum now calls itself Aleph.
Noda left the agency in 1998 and is now a freelance journalist covering agency-related scandals. He said Kitagawa contacted him several times between 2001 and 2002.
Kitagawa, a resident of Osaka, told Noda she wanted to sever ties with the agency by possibly going public about her role as a mole or by taking legal action. She was worried, however, that the agency would retaliate.
During an interview in September 2001, Kitagawa told Noda that the agency approached her in fall 2000 and offered her money in return for information on the cult.
Kitagawa said she wanted to stop spying on the cult after being forced to have sex with an agency agent about 20 times between May and July 2001, Noda said.
Kitagawa was agonized by the turn of events, according to Noda, and said she was intimidated by the agent after consulting local police about the relationship.
Later that year, Kitagawa told Noda that she had decided against going public about being paid to spy on Aum, he said. She formally quit Aum in October 2001, a senior cult member said.
In October 2002, Aum officials filed a formal complaint with the Public Security Investigation Agency over its alleged recruitment of Kitagawa as a spy.
A spokesman for the agency declined comment on the case, except to note that speaking about its spying activities or divulging the names of its agents could adversely affect its future activities.
In the interview and e-mails to Noda, Kitagawa repeatedly expressed her fascination with North Korea. Noda said he believes Kitagawa’s fear of retaliation by the agency may have driven her to defect to the reclusive state.
The agent who allegedly raped Kitagawa was transferred to another bureau in the Tohoku region in January 2002, Noda said. Being sent to the countryside could be considered a demotion for his actions, he said.
A senior Aum member said Wednesday that Kitagawa had told senior cultists that she had been paid by public security officials to spy on the cult, and sought advice on how she could cut her ties with the agency. Kitagawa joined the cult in Osaka in March 1995 after Aum’s sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
While a member of the cult, Kitagawa often told other followers about her fascination with North Korea and Kim Jong Il’s regime and said she hoped to move there someday, he said.