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. [Reuters, Ju-Min Park and James Pearson]
Daesong Bank is sanctioned by both the U.S. Treasury Department and the European Union, and is closely linked to the infamous Bureau 39. This guy could know where a lot of bodies are buried, metaphorically speaking. Also, literally.
The Joongang Ilbo, which broke the story, says that Yun “officially worked as president of the bank” and “was in charge of raising and managing slush funds for Kim in Northeast Russia.” Apparently, Yun made a withdrawal of about $5 million from that slush fund before his defection, and North Korea has a substantial penalty for early withdrawal.
North Korea’s activities in the region include its infamous logging camps and the recently-sanctioned, Vladivostok-based Ocean Maritime Management, the agent for the Chong Chong Gang, the Mu Du Dong, and other sanctioned vessels. And, God-knows-what else.
“We were tipped off that Jon Il-chun, the first deputy director of the Central Committee of Workers’ Party who was effectively in charge of Office 39, is currently in a very unstable position in an ongoing power struggle [in the ruling party] following several recent incidents,” another source said.
The allegation suggests to Seoul officials that in his third year of power, Kim Jong-un may be having problems managing his financial affairs.
Some sources said Yun’s defection could be part of the aftermath of the brutal execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, in December 2013.
North Korean officials in charge of foreign currency in China and other Western countries were allegedly part of Jang’s inner circle, sources said, and some of them felt threatened by Jang’s death and have vanished. [Joongang Ilbo]
After Jang’s purge, there were reports that dozens of North Korea’s offshore financiers had been called home, and (wisely) didn’t come. The Joongang Ilbo has done the best reporting of North Korean money laundering of all of the Korean papers.
God, how I hope the CIA and Treasury will have a chance to debrief this man. And that he brought his laptop with him. And that he isn’t the only one who has reached safety in the embrace of “third-country” intelligence officers.
Hat tip to a reader and friend.