News / Asia

N. Korean Leader's Money Manager Defects in Russia

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) guides the actual parachuting and striking drill of paratrooper units of the KPA in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) Aug. 28, 2014.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) guides the actual parachuting and striking drill of paratrooper units of the KPA in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) Aug. 28, 2014.
Reuters

A senior North Korean banking official who managed money for leader Kim Jong Un has defected in Russia and was seeking asylum in a third country, a South Korean newspaper reported on Friday, citing an unidentified source.

Yun Tae Hyong, a senior representative of North Korea's Korea Daesong Bank, disappeared last week in Nakhodka, in the Russian Far East, with $5 million, the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported.

The Daesong Bank is suspected by the U.S. government of being under the control of the North Korean government's Office 39, which is widely believed to finance illicit activities, including the procurement of luxury goods which are banned under U.N. sanctions.

The bank was blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2010.

The newspaper said North Korea had asked Russian authorities for cooperation in efforts to capture Yun.

The North Korea-Russia borderThe North Korea-Russia border
x
The North Korea-Russia border
The North Korea-Russia border

It was not clear how Yun traveled to Russia or what he was doing before he defected. Russia and North Korea share a 17-km (10.5 miles) land border.

South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, told Reuters it had no knowledge of the matter.

Rise to power

Kim Jong Un, in his early 30s, came to power in December 2011 when his father, Kim Jong Il, died of a heart attack, leaving him little time to consolidate his powerbase and prepare for succession.

Experts are divided as to whether Kim has managed to exert full control over a country in which he sits at the center of a leadership cult devoted to his father and grandfather.

Kim's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who was also involved in the operation of Office 39, was purged in December last year, along with an unknown number of officials connected to him and his business interests.

If Yun had indeed defected, he would not necessarily have extensive information on the regime given the compartmentalized way that North Korea functions, said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea leadership expert at Dongguk University in Seoul.

“[Officials] are only able to know about their work and commitments. It is hard to know something big beyond that in North Korea,” he said.

Korea Daesong Bank is focused on foreign exchange transactions and was set up in 1978 to handle payments by North Korean trading firms, according to the South Korean Unification Ministry's website.

In 2005, $25 million of North Korea's cash was frozen at Macau-based Banco Delta Asia, which the U.S. Treasury said North Korea used for illicit activities.

That case stands as practically the only public success in seizing funds from the isolated country.  

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid