Handler of Kim Jong-un’s cash defects in Russia

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Handler of Kim Jong-un’s cash defects in Russia

A high-ranking North Korean official who was in charge of managing Kim Jong-un’s personal cash accounts has defected after embezzling some of the leader’s money, a source told the JoongAng Ilbo.

He is seeking asylum abroad, the source said.

“Yun Tae-hyong, a senior representative of North Korea’s Joson Daesong Bank, disappeared in Nakhodka, Russia, bringing with him about $5 million of the ‘revolutionary fund’ [a slush fund used by Kim Jong-un],” said the source. “He is allegedly requesting asylum.

“Yun officially worked as president of the bank,” the source said. “He was in charge of raising and managing slush funds for Kim in Northeast Russia.”

North Korea has requested the cooperation of the Russian police in arresting and repatriating Yun, the source said.

The South Korean government is aware of the news, the source said, and is closely watching in case there’s a possibility he will defect to the South.

A person in Kim Jong-un’s inner circle is expected to know a lot about the leader’s illicit financial dealings, which have been shrouded in secrecy to the outside world, another source said.

According to sources, the Joson Daesong Bank, also called the Korea Daesong Bank, was established in 1978. It opened a branch in Vienna in 1980 and another one in Hong Kong in 1996.

Rather than functioning as a bank, it has allegedly worked on financing and managing slush funds used by Kim Jong-un and his late father, Kim Jong-il, in foreign countries.

The U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted the bank in November 2010 for being involved “in facilitating North Korea’s illicit financing projects,” according to its website.

The Treasury Department said the bank was under the control of North Korea’s Office 39, a secret office in charge of “engaging in illicit economic activities and managing slush funds and generating revenues for the leadership.” Office 39 is also known as Room 39, Bureau 39 and Division 39.

“We were tipped off that Jon Il-chun, the first deputy director of the Central Committee of Workers’ Party who was effectively in charge of Office 39, is currently in a very unstable position in an ongoing power struggle [in the ruling party] following several recent incidents,” another source said.

The allegation suggests to Seoul officials that in his third year of power, Kim Jong-un may be having problems managing his financial affairs.

Some sources said Yun’s defection could be part of the aftermath of the brutal execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, in December 2013.

North Korean officials in charge of foreign currency in China and other Western countries were allegedly part of Jang’s inner circle, sources said, and some of them felt threatened by Jang’s death and have vanished.

BY LEE YOUNG-JONG [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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