UK freezes assets of North Korean spies

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Photo by AFP)

The UK government has frozen the assets of an alleged North Korean father-and-son spying duo, who are also accused of raising funds for Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

Kim Yong Nam, 70, and his 41-year-old son, Kim Su Gwang, are accused of infiltrating the United Nations (UN) and using their roles to operate a network of North Korean spies across Europe, the British media reported Sunday.

According to the report, Nam worked for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the French capital Paris, while Gwang worked at the World Food headquarters in Rome, Italy’s capital.

The UK Treasury confirmed the News and accused the father and son of helping Pyongyang to push ahead with its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programs.

Pyongyang’s insistence on continuing the two controversial military initiatives for defensive purposes have prompted harsh reactions from the UK and other Western governments.

In its statement, the UK Treasury said Gwang and his father had been “engaging in a pattern of deceptive financial practices which could contribute to North Korea’s nuclear-related, ballistic missile-related or other weapons of mass destruction-related programs.”

“He (Gwang) has been involved in various large bank transfers to bank accounts in the Union or to accounts outside the Union while working as a diplomat,” the statement further read.

The two men were first claimed to be spies in a report for a UN Panel of Experts, which stated they were intelligence officers “operating under the cover of a position as an international civil servant.”

According to the report, both men belonged to the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), North Korea’s intelligence agency which is said to be conducting spying espionage abroad.

Gwang had six of these bank accounts in Italy, the report noted and is accused of using British banks to send money back to North Korea.

Spokesman for the World Food Programme Peter Smerdon said Gwang “is no longer employed by WFP.”

Apparently, Gwang was fired by the WFP in 2015 but has since been appointed as North Korea’s deputy trade representative in Belarus.

The UN report also accused Gwang’s father of carrying out “activities in support of RGB itinerant officers working undercover in Europe and worldwide.”

The report comes amid a push by the international community and North Korean leaders to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

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