Slave to the Blog: The Desperado Edition
It was with sadness that I heard yesterday that songwriter and singer Guy Clark had passed away at the age of 74 in Nashville. Among his best known songs were “L.A. Freeway,” a hit for Jimmy Buffet, and “The Randall Knife,” but his best known song was “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” a hit for Jerry Jeff Walker. So, in memory of Guy Clark, three tales of lawless behavior.
Last week North Korean diplomats were caught smuggling alcohol into Pakistan. This isn’t the first time that Pyongyang’s diplomats have been caught in the act engaging in illicit smuggling activities and then attempting to use diplomatic cover to brush it off. (Previous posts on North Korean smuggling activities can be found here, here, and here.) According to the UPI report the North Korean mission didn’t abide by Pakistan’s alcohol import quota of 445 boxes, instead attempting to import 855 boxes. The report suggests that we may be seeing an uptick in smuggling as the Kim regime is forced to find more creative ways to earn hard currency. The article reports that North Korean diplomats have previously been busted for selling booze to faculty at international schools and at a defense compound in Pakistan.
Egypt and North Korea have a long history of cooperation in the missile field, and the North Korean embassy in Cairo is quite large. Recently the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied claims that it deported current DPRK Ambassador Pak Chun Il due to his connections with arms smuggling. On March 3, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control added Pak to its list of specially-designated individuals due to his links with North Korea’s Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID), which has previously been identified as the DPRK’s primary weapons exporting organization. Since Pak is not listed under any UN sanctions designations, Egypt is not legally obliged to expel him. But RFA has reported that Egypt recently expelled another North Korean official with links to KOMID and North’s Ministry of State Security, and that Pak’s dismissal may be imminent. Declaring a sitting ambassador persona non grata would be a bolder move but may be possible if the US applies pressure.
In the wild, wild west of the China-North Korea border region, on Tuesday the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that two South Korean nationals, one of whom is believed to be a North Korean defector, have gone missing. As with the recent assassination of Korean-Chinese minister Han Choong-ryul in a Chinese border town, there are concerns that North Korean agents may have been involved. While Chinese and North Korean security agencies have a history of cooperation and permitting North Korean agents to act in the area, Han was a Chinese citizen, and if the story of his murder is true, it raises issues of possible Chinese complicity and/or whether the North has pushed the envelope and gone rogue. The ROK MOFA has since advised local tour companies not to advertise packages for trips to the China-DPRK border as South Korea is on high-alert against the likelihood of terrorist attacks by North Korea.