updated 4/16/2007 5:51:03 AM ET 2007-04-16T09:51:03

A South Korean court convicted a Korean-American of spying for North Korea and sentenced him to nine years in prison on Monday.

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Jang Min-ho, a 44-year-old naturalized American who is also known as Michael Jang, played a key role “in delivering national secrets ... to North Korean agents and setting up meetings between North Korean agents” and four other South Koreans, who were also convicted Monday of espionage by the Seoul Central District Court.

The court also told Jang to forfeit $20,500 he received from the North as operational funds since 1998.

Among the four others convicted are one former and one current official of South Korea’s left-leaning opposition Democratic Labor Party. All of them received a prison sentence ranging from four to six years.

“North Korea can be considered a partner of dialogue and cooperation for a peaceful unification” of the divided Korean peninsula, the court said. “However, it is hard to confirm that North Korea has given up its desire of a communist-led unification aimed at toppling our democratic regime, and this case shows it.”

‘Conducted his activities individually’
Jang and the four others were indicted in December for allegedly running a spy ring since 2002 at the instruction of the North and passing secret information to the communist country.

The court said Monday each of the convicted “conducted his activities individually,” rather than in an organized manner, finding them innocent of charges of forming a spy ring.

The two Koreas remain technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, but their relations have significantly warmed after their leaders’ summit in 2000.

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