Free Joseon: Freedom Fighters, Glory-Hunting Fantasists Or A Government-In-Exile?


Parish Watch
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Oct 29, 2002
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East of Suez

Inside the bizarre, bungled raid on North Korea's Madrid embassy

In February, a gang of armed men took a North Korean official hostage and demanded that he defect. When he refused, their plan fell apart, and they fled. Who were they, and why did they risk everything on this wild plot? By Giles Tremlett

Shortly before 5pm on 22 February, a suited man with a lapel pin bearing the dimpled face of Kim Jong-un rang the doorbell of the North Korean embassy in Madrid. The man had visited the embassy before. Fifteen days earlier, he had been turned away by an official who was suspicious of his claims that he was a businessman hoping to invest in North Korea. Before he left, the visitor gave the official his card, which said he ran a Dubai-based investment fund named Baron Stone Capital.

Now the visitor had returned, claiming he had a gift for the embassy’s senior official, So Yun-sok. This time, he was ushered inside and asked to wait in the courtyard between the compound’s main two-storey building and its solid metal outer gate. While the official went to look for Mr So, the visitor walked to the perimeter of the compound and surreptitiously released the lock on the outside gate.

A few moments later, a group of men carrying combat knives, iron bars, handcuffs and fake pistols burst through the embassy door. According to a 14-page summary of the incident by the Spanish high court judge José de la Mata, within minutes all four male employees at the embassy had been tied up and bundled into a first-floor meeting room. The assailants, some wearing black balaclavas and others with their faces uncovered, spoke in American English and the distinctive Korean of Seoul and the South.

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