South Korean spies sought Australian trade secrets

Australia’s foreign minister says issue has caused no diplomatic tension with Seoul

Agents from South Korea’s national intelligence service have tried to get secret information about Australian trade, triggering the dismissal of an Australian public servant over his links to the agency.

The spy case dates back to 2010 and relates to efforts by South Korea to find out about Australian agricultural trade when the two nations were in early negotiations on a free-trade agreement.

Australia’s foreign minister, Bob Carr, refused to comment on details of the case on Thursday, citing “matters of security or intelligence”, but said the issue had caused no diplomatic tension with Seoul, a strong ally and key trading partner.

“I believe the relationship with the Republic of Korea is so strong, so robust, that this will have no effect on it,” Carr said.

South Korea is Australia’s fourth biggest trade partner, with bilateral trade worth more than A$32bn (£21bn). The two countries launched free-trade talks in 2009, but have yet to clinch a deal.

Reuters in Canberra, Thursday 2 May 2013 08.14 BST

Find this story at 2 May 2013

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