Ukraine has sentenced two North Korean trade mission employees for spying to eight years in prison each.
Ukrainian Security Service officers exposed the two Koreans while they were attempting to gain access to classified information, segodnya.ua reported on Friday.
Having arrived in Dnipropetrovsk from Minsk, the two Koreans attempted to recruit an employee of the Pivdenne Design Bureau, a high-ranking official from the Prosecutor General’s Office told the publication.
"They were interested in gaining classified information concerning space rocketry equipment, particularly fuel systems for spacecraft," he said.
The employee from Pivdenne Design Bureau reported his contacts with foreigners to a Security Service office, which exempted him from liability for collaboration with foreign intelligence services.
The Security Service devised a plan to lure the spies into a trap.
"The spies were caught red-handed, when they were photographing doctoral candidate’s dissertations classified ‘Secret’. The scientific theses dealt with new progressive technologies in building rocket systems, spacecraft, liquid-fuel engines, rocket fuel supply systems, and other know how. The Security Service does not comment on this officially," the publication says.
By sentencing the suspects to eight years in prison each, the court took into consideration as an aggravating circumstance that the divulgence of this information would have caused serious damage to Ukraine’s national security, and the North Korean space rocket industry would have gained access to a technology based on achievements of Ukrainian rocket scientists and would have significantly expanded its strategic potential, the publication says.
The information hunted for by the North Korean trade mission employees would have helped expand the range of North Korean rockets enough to reach the U.S. territory, according to the investigation.
The publication said the sentence could be appealed, and if it remains unchanged, the convicts might ask a court to allow them to serve it at home.
However, Ukraine and North Korea do not have a treaty on mutual legal assistance envisioning such a procedure.