‘Free Joseon’ gives commands to Kim Jong-un

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‘Free Joseon’ gives commands to Kim Jong-un

An anti-North Korean group responsible for a raid on its embassy in Madrid last February released a statement Monday calling on the regime to end its repression of political dissidents.

The statement from Free Joseon, also known as Cheollima Civil Defense, came a day after North Korea’s Foreign Ministry made its first public pronouncement on the incident in Spain, which it labeled a “grave terrorist attack.”

Mystifyingly entitled “Our existence,” the Free Joseon’s Korean language statement stressed the group’s anonymity and its commitment to opposing a regime which, in an earlier statement, it described as being ruled by “criminal, totalitarian rulers” that “tortured and killed millions.”

“We cannot be seen. Our breathing cannot be heard,” the statement’s introduction read. “Our existence is only visible at the front of the struggle against the dictatorship of the Kim family. This is our way and our pride.

The group issued a “stern command” to the Kim Jong-un regime to “dismantle its political prison camps, stop the forced repatriation of defectors and engage in opening up and reform” in what appeared to be its first direct demands of Pyongyang. “If the Kim Jong-un regime continues to refuse these callings of liberty, it will experience further embarrassment,” it continued.

Adding it was preparing for “greater actions,” the group asked for support and patience for “new miraculous truths” in the making.

According to a Spanish High Court investigation report released last week, 10 assailants belonging to Free Joseon were responsible for storming North Korea’s embassy in Madrid on Feb. 22. Armed with knives and fake guns, the group allegedly stole computers and pen drives reportedly containing sensitive information before successfully escaping to the United States.

The group’s reported leader, a Mexican citizen named Adrian Hong Chang well known in U.S. activist circles, tried to relay the data stolen in the raid to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), according to the group’s own website, under “mutually agreed terms of confidentiality.”

The U.S. State Department last week denied any ties to the incident.

An NBC News report on Saturday, citing law enforcement sources in the United States, said the FBI received the information, which one of its sources said could prove “pretty significant” in the United States’ surveillance of North Korean activities around the globe.

In its statement published in the state mouthpiece Korean Central News Agency on Sunday, Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry said it was “following the rumors of all hues now in the air that FBI of the United States and the small fry of anti-DPRK ‘body’ [an apparent allusion to Free Joseon] were involved in the terror incident.”

One source involved in humanitarian efforts related to North Korean defectors told the JoongAng Ilbo that Free Joseon is made up of North Korean defectors living outside Korea whose purpose is to attract international attention to their anti-Kim Jong-un message. In numerous statements on its website, the group disavowed any links to North Korean defectors residing in South Korea, citing security reasons.

The source also claimed that Adrian Hong had approached Hwang Jang-yop, the highest ranking North Korean defector to have escaped the regime, in 2009 with a proposal to establish a government in exile representing the North. Hwang, who is widely credited as the brain behind the North’s official Juche ideology, expressed great anger and disagreed with the idea, and Hong backed off, said another source who was present at the meeting. Hwang died in 2010. The Washington Post last week reported that Hong had also approached Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, with the same idea at an undisclosed time before the latter was assassinated by North Korean-hired suspects in Malaysia in 2017.

Rumors of the FBI’s involvement in February’s raid, according to the source, could also be deliberately spread by the group to gain attention.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]
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