SEOUL: In a surprise move, North Korea moved to ease tensions on the peninsula by backing down from its earlier insistence that South Korean agents had actually kidnapped prominent defector Hwang Yang Jop. Instead, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said that if the key member of the Communist Party's Central Committee voluntarily went to the consulate, "he is a renegade and he is dismissed." The announcement followed assurances by South Korea Monday that it will send food aid and nuclear technicians to the North despite feelings that Pyongyang was behind the shooting in Seoul this weekend of a prominent North Korean defector. Lee Han-young, a nephew of the first wife of North Korean strongman Kim Jong Il, was reported to be brain-dead after two gunmen shot him in the head outside a friend's apartment Saturday. Police found two shells at the site from the weapon of choice for North Korean agents, a Belgian Browning pistol. While Seoul's response to Lee's death has been remarkably understated, possibilities for South Korea to get some political revenge might be just around the corner. Seoul newspapers report that Hwang has given the CIA a list of five to seven other high-ranking North Korean functionaries willing to defect. Seoul will doubtlessly be only too happy to oblige. While the Clinton Administration sees the news as a helpful thaw as it tries to bring the two countries to sign an agreement formally ending the Korean war, the situation will be a critical early test of Secretary of State Madeline Albright's skills when she visits Seoul on Friday.