On February 22 of this year, Spanish media reported that police investigated a group of unidentified assailants who raided the North Korean Embassy in Madrid, and reportedly seized flash drives, two computers, two hard drives and a mobile phone.
On Tuesday, the Spanish High Court released a document that identified Adrian Hong Chang, a U.S. resident, as the leader of the raid. He was said to have been wearing a jacket with a pin of Kim Jong Un, and tricked police who arrived at the scene into thinking that he was a member of staff at the embassy.
Once the Executive Director of Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), an NGO supporting North Korean refugees, back in 2006 Adrian Hong was arrested in Beijing when helping defectors escape through Liaoning, a Chinese province that borders North Korea.
Hannah Song, the CEO of Liberty in North Korea, told TIME via email that Hong co-founded the group as a college student, and has had no involvement with it for more than 10 years.
A group called Cheollima Civil Defense has since claimed responsibility for the incident on its website, and said it shared information “of enormous potential value” with the FBI under “mutually agreed terms of confidentiality.” But the group denied that any intimidation was involved, and said claims that individuals brandished weapons and attacked embassy workers were false.
Cheollima Civil Defense (CCD), which also goes by the name ‘Free Joseon,’ calls itself an “organization of refugees who escaped North Korea” that aims to “shake the Kim Jong Un regime.” Its sporadically updated website states that the group has “already helped many North Korean people” and expects nothing in return for its services.
Last week, CCD embedded a video posted to its YouTube channel of a person, appeared blurred on camera, violently smashing portraits of the Kim family. The video description read, “Down with Kim family rule! For our people we rise up! Long live Free Joseon!”
According to NK News, Hong served as head of the Joseon Institute from 2015, described on its website as a “think tank conducting policy-relevant research and planning” on North Korean affairs. The organization’s Facebook page was last updated in August 2017. Adrian Hong is also identified as the Managing Director of consultancy firm Pegasus Strategies, a human rights advocate and writer based in the U.S.
According to the court document, the assailants flew to Portugal after the attack. From there, they took a flight to New York. Hong, however, split from the group and flew to New Jersey. Spain has issued international arrest warrants against him and another suspect, Sam Ryu, who is a U.S. citizen of Korean descent.