by Konstantin Asmolov, New Eastern Outlook: The beginning of May 2017 was marked by a series of high-profile statements published by the DPRK media on the unmasking of an alleged attempt to topple the country’s top leadership. On May 5, the Ministry of State Security of the DPRK made official statements to this effect. Then on May 11, Deputy Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol stressed that the DPRK Prosecutor’s Office shall “seek the extradition of all criminals involved, including the organizers and instigators of this state terrorism act, based on the laws in force in the country.” The criminals referred to in this statement included former South Korean President Park Geun-hye and former Head of the Special Services of the Republic of Korea Lee Byoung Ho. A little later, the North Korean web portal Uriminzokkiri published a 23-minute YouTube video showing a man admitting to masterminding an assassination attempt on Kim Jong-un.
Sifting through the North Korean official narrative is difficult enough, but if we leave out the threats of the “Korean-style anti-terrorist attack aimed at wiping away the conspiracy plots of the intelligence organizations of the United States and South Korea from the face of the earth,” certain facts become more or less understandable. In June 2014, certain individuals, most likely agents of the CIA and South Korean Intelligence “bribed the ideologically unstable” citizen of the DPRK Kim Seoung-il, who at that time was working as a logger in the Khabarovsk Territory of the Russian Federation, and “turned him into a terrorist full of enmity and revenge against our (DPRK) top leadership,” providing him with USD 20,000 and a satellite phone. The rendezvous was facilitated by Director of the Citizens’ Coalition for the Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees Doe Hee-jun, who managed to get closer to Kim, bribing him with the money and other niceties.
As Kim explains in a video, after he met Doe Hee-jun on the Internet, the latter began drawing his attention to the human rights crisis in the DPRK, telling him about how the Citizens’ Coalition was encouraging North Koreans to flee the DPRK for China or a third country and transporting defectors to South Korea, as well as garnering public global opinion on the human rights violations in the DPRK. Kim would not believe these reports, but Doe Hee-jun promised to send him a Samsung tablet through which they would be able to communicate freely on applications like Telegram or Kakaotalk. In mid-September, on being tipped by Doe Hee-jun, Kim Seoung-il met with Sergei Kim who lives in the northern part of Khabarovsk and received the tablet on which he began tuning in to Radio Free Asia and other programs of this kind.
I would note here that Doe Hee-jun is a real, existing person who calls himself professor and often appears in Russia or Uzbekistan on missions in which he conducts lectures on the inhumanity of the DPRK regime.
In mid-August 2015, Kim Seoung-il met with a certain Khan, who introduced himself as the leader of the South Korean National Intelligence Service mission in the area, and discussed details of the attempt with him. This meeting took place in the Amursky Park of Khabarovsk under the intermediation of a certain wood merchant. Khan claimed to be working together with the CIA, and said that he needed information on the sources of the furniture, food, transportation, etc. used by the top leadership so that they could be effectively poisoned. Khan also hinted that Kim’s family would not go unpunished should he fail to complete the assignment.
During the following years, when Kim was already in the DPRK (he has lived in the capital since 2016), these people went out with him for contact (only four times in 2016, and in total, Kim received more than 80 instructions), transferring new amounts of money or the necessary equipment like a satellite phone through which communication would be maintained. Then, with the participation of Kim, the preliminary work was carried out, including a discussion on the assassination options and the type of substance that would be used to liquidate the leader of the country. Equally important were recommendations on the recruitment of supporters, the bribery of the person who would become the next direct executor, and the creation of an agent network. Kim had to pass on to them any information on the organization and protection of mass events during which it would be possible to commit the act of terrorism. He was also mandated to establish channels of communication and the supply of equipment for terrorist attacks, for which he received additional USD 100,000.