Paris student eludes Jong-un’s spies

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Paris student eludes Jong-un’s spies

A North Korean architectural student on an overseas education program in Paris escaped from agents sent from Pyongyang to bring him home and is on the run.

His family was apparently purged following the execution last December of Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, on treason charges.

Yonhap News Agency reported Wednesday that the student, identified by the surname Han, has attended the Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Architecture de Paris-La Villette since 2011 and was grabbed by North Korean agents on an unknown date at an unknown location.

Han, whose age was not disclosed, reportedly managed to escape from the agents en route to an airport and has been hiding somewhere in Paris with the help of his acquaintance for around two weeks.

It was reported that Han is the son of an elite Pyongyang official who was purged recently as part of Kim Jong-un’s efforts to eliminate loyalists to Jang, his former mentor and protector who was considered the second most powerful person in the regime.

Han reportedly was aware of his father’s purge and the fact that relatives had been sent to political prison camps.

He was certain the same fate would await him at home, prompting him to escape en route to the airport.

The dramatic downfall of Jang, the husband of Kim Kyong-hui, a younger sister of late leader Kim Jong-il, sent a chill around North Korean diplomatic missions abroad, especially among people considered close or loyal to the 68-year-old uncle. Many were purged.

If verified, the saga over the missing student could cause diplomatic difficulties between Paris and Pyongyang.

It was reported that Han was one of 10 North Korean students sent to study at the architecture school in Paris in 2011.

They reportedly were all from Pyongyang’s elite Kim Il Sung University and children of high-ranking government officials.

An official at the school was quoted as saying that local police are now trying to track down Han’s whereabouts and that he has been missing for at least 15 days.

In a phone interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily, an official at the school in charge of media said, “I do not know anything about the issue. The best thing is to get in touch with the police.”

In response to the report, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday evening that it was trying to verify facts.


BY KANG JIN-KYU, SARAH KIM [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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