by WorldTribune Staff, May 12, 2019
The U.S. Department of Justice “must not do Kim Jong-Un’s bidding” by extraditing two North Korean opposition activists suspected of breaking into the North’s embassy in Madrid, North Korean watchers say.
Christopher Ahn, an American-born former U.S. Marine, was arrested last month in Los Angeles and is being held in prison as he awaits the outcome of Spain’s extradition request.
Ahn and human rights activist Adrian Hong are members of the North Korean resistance group Free Joseon, or “Free North Korea.” The group has called for the downfall of Kim Jong-Un’s regime and an earlier statement announced the “Provisional government of Free Joseon.” But now, the U.S. is seeking to extradite the two to face charges in Madrid.
Related: Mystery group issues declaration of independence for North Korea, March 1, 2019
According to a Fox News report, the criminal complaint from Spanish authorities says that a group of about ten people, led by Hong, entered the embassy on Feb. 2, and attacked “all the personnel that were in the diplomatic mission, until they managed to reduce them and place shackles and ties on them to immobilize them, and put bags on their heads.”
Spain claims that the embassy personnel were beaten and threatened “with iron bars and what appeared as firearms,” but that the chief North Korean diplomat “told them that he would not betray his country and would not defect.”
But Hong’s lawyer, Lee Wolosky, contends that the claims that the group broke in and threatened violence as false. He said the embassy’s video security cameras clearly show members calmly entering the building.
“We do not believe it is appropriate for the Department of Justice to execute warrants based on North Korean criminal complaints and the highly unreliable accounts of North Korean government witnesses. The North Korean witnesses who spent hours inside the embassy with representatives of the Provisional Government have an obvious incentive to lie and to maintain that they were subjected to extreme coercion,” Wolosky said in a statement to Fox News.
While Ahn is being held in LA, Hong is reportedly in hiding from U.S. authorities and North Korean hit squads. Both Ahn and Hong are of Korean descent.
“We shouldn’t extradite these people to Spain,” said Gordon Chang, Asia analyst and author of the new book, “Losing South Korea”.
“The Spanish should never have asked for extradition in the first place, because these ‘crimes,’ quote un-quote, are actually political,” Chang said.
Hong, co-founder of the group Liberty In North Korea, was recognized for his humanitarian work by then-President Obama, whom he visited at the White House.
Free Joseon and has helped some high-level North Koreans defect, including the son of Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother Kim Jong-Nam, whose assassination with VX nerve gas in 2017 at the Kuala Lumpur airport was blamed on the regime.
“What they have done is really God’s work, over a long period of time,” says Chang. “This group has been able to do some very important things that governments have not wanted to do and have not been able to do. And also we know that the group took thumb drives out of the North Korean embassy in Madrid, they gave them to the FBI and this is important because North Korean embassies are really centers of crime. North Korea raises money through criminal activities, which are centered on the embassies. I am sure that we found a lot of information about how North Korea launders money through Europe, because of the information this group gave to federal authorities.”
Wolosky said that “As we have maintained from the beginning, Free Joseon was invited to enter the Embassy, and there was no ‘attack’ or forced entry. The North Korean accounts are now contradicted by the CCTV images released by the Spanish authorities and the other evidence that we understand has now been provided to Fox News.”
Chang noted “They were probably invited in, this was probably an inside job. Someone on the inside was going to defect. The reporting is that this was a botched attempt to get one of those senior North Korean diplomats to defect.”
Chang says that if it got out to Pyongyang that the activists were actually allowed into the embassy by Kim’s diplomatic staff and remained there talking for several hours, “these people would be executed, after being tortured.”
Sung-Yoon Lee, Korea analyst and professor of Korean at Tufts University, said the U.S.’s extradition treaty with Spain “provides for a refusal to extradite if we regard the offense in question as political. The North Korean Embassy breach surely was that, and the U.S. should seek to protect the dissidents rather than hand them over to Spain.”
The U.S., Lee said, “must not do Kim’s bidding.”
Free Joseon, Lee said, “is a textbook resistance movement, using asymmetric and psychological warfare. Against a state that employs a powerful web of security forces and a cruel penal system to oppress its own people, low-level asymmetric tactics are the only means available. A $20 investment in spray paint can embarrass Pyongyang’s massive security apparatus. Turning over to authorities computers stolen from the Madrid embassy signals that Free Joseon isn’t a criminal enterprise in the usual sense.”