South Korea to repatriate body of ex-NKorean spy to his communist homeland

South Korea said Sunday it would repatriate the body of a former communist spy to North Korea, a day after he died of cancer after spending more than 31 years in jail.

North Korea's Red Cross had requested the return of Chung Soon-taek's body, said Yang Chang-seok, a spokesman for the Unification Ministry.

He said Chung's body would be sent to the border village of Panmunjeom around 3-4 p.m. (0600-0700 GMT).

Chung died of pancreatic cancer late Saturday. He was 84 years old.

He was sent to the South as a spy in 1958 and was caught and jailed later that year. He was released in 1989, having spent 31 years and five months in prison, after he pledged to renounce his faith in communism.

Since 1999, however, Chung had claimed that he converted under torture and demanded that he be allowed to return to his communist homeland.

In September 2000, months after a historic inter-Korean summit, South Korea repatriated 63 communist guerrillas and spies to the North who had spent up to 45 years in solitary confinement but still refused to give up their ideology. Chung was not among them.

With Chung close to death on Saturday, the South asked the North to send his wife and four sons for a last visit, but hours after the request, Chung died.

Chung was among 30 former communist spies and guerrillas living in the South after serving long prison terms. They have all asked to return to the North.

Relations between the two Koreas warmed significantly after the 2000 summit, setting off a series of exchange programs, including tearful reunions of families separated by the heavily armed border.

The two Koreas are still technically in a state of conflict as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, AP reported.

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