Another U.S. citizen has been detained in North Korea and is accused of plotting to topple the regime and assassinating the leadership, a member of his delegation told The Korea Herald.
Kun “Tony” Namkung, a North Korea expert known for longstanding ties with Pyongyang, arranged and took part in the recent trip by Richardson and Google Inc. executive chairman Eric Schmidt from Jan. 7-10. The much-trumpeted mission was partly aimed at negotiating the release of Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American tour operator who was arrested in November in the Rason economic zone. The North’s official media said Bae had committed “crimes against the state” but details had remained unclear.
Namkung, 68, is the grandson of Namkung Hyuk, who headed a Presbyterian seminary in Pyongyang set up in 1901 by American missionaries. Since 1990, he has made more than two dozen trips to North Korea and served as an unofficial liaison between Pyongyang and Washington. He advised Richardson on Asian affairs during his 2003-10 governorship and now works as an independent scholar and consultant.
Meanwhile North Korean leader Kim Jong-un convened top security and foreign affairs officials and ordered them to take “substantial and high-profile important state measures”, state media said on Sunday, indicating that he plans to push forward with a threat to explode a nuclear device in defiance of the United Nations.
The committee includes top military brass like new army chief Hyon Yong-chol and the army’s top ideologue Choe Ryong-hae, Minister for State Security Kim Won-hong, Pak To-chun, the man overseeing nuclear arms development, party bigwigs Kim Yong-il and Hong Sung-mu who deal with foreign policy, and Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, a comparative moderate and long the point man in negotiations with the U.S.