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KOBE — For nearly 20 years, Cho Ryu Un, a Korean resident of Japan born and raised in Kobe, lived a double life. To friends and business partners, he was a normal businessman, albeit connected with the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon).

But from 1970 to 1989, Cho said, he was known in North Korean intelligence circles as “Blacksnake,” a trusted secret agent who provided his bosses with everything from French cognac and perfume to maps of the Sea of Japan coast. In addition, Blacksnake was a contact for North Korean agents who slipped into Japan, a man who would provide money and cover.

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