The Korea Herald


Foreign Ministry warns of China spy law

By Choi Si-young

Published : June 23, 2023 - 15:27

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The flags of South Korea (right) and China. (123rf) The flags of South Korea (right) and China. (123rf)

A senior Foreign Ministry official in Seoul warned South Koreans about the potential fallout from China’s latest anti-espionage law, which is set to take effect in July.

“Those traveling or staying there should now take more precautions,” the official told a media briefing Thursday, referring to the fact that the law could catch Koreans off guard as new changes written into the law have widened Chinese authorities’ discretion over what constitutes espionage.

Previously, the possession of “state secrets and information” was punishable, but from July, anyone holding information involving “national security and interests” could be punished as well -- a potential leap in the way the Chinese government sees what espionage entails because the law does not provide what such national security interests are.

Chance encounters with those the Chinese government sees as spies could also be punished, and online search or download histories China considers threatening to its “national security and interests” could prompt an investigation, according to the foreign ministry official.

“Tourists in particular should try not to take photos of Chinese military facilities and defense companies,” the official said, adding taking photos of local protests could be just as much mistaken by authorities as they start enforcing the stricter regulation some say is arbitrary.

Those facing espionage charges might not go as far as a formal trial, but they would get some form of punishment, according to a separate official with knowledge of the matter.