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Author Topic: The Attempted Kidnapping of Mr. Han in Paris & His Subsequent Disappearance  (Read 2327 times)

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December 22, 2014, 08:02:49 PM
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Offline Peter

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Just a few days before Sony was hacked (allegedly) by North Korea, another fascinating and disturbing story broke, this one about the son of one of the North Korean elite killed in recent purges following the execution of Kim Jong-un's uncle Jang Song-taek. The son, Mr Han, was studying in Paris at the time of his father's death, and in North Korea the sins of the father are the sins of the son... and the daughter and the grandson and the grandfather etc. Articles began appearing in late November through to early December, but then coverage of the incident stopped. As of December 22, I have found no articles after December 2. The most recent article at least offers some hope he is still alive and free:

Nov. 19: Son of Jang Song-thaek's aide disappears in Paris (Yonhap News)
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A North Korean college student in Paris has been missing for more than two weeks, sources here said Wednesday, amid speculation that agents from the North are attempting to forcibly take him back to the communist nation. The student, only identified by his surname Han, is a son of an aide to Jang Song-thaek, the once powerful uncle of the North's leader Kim Jong-un. Jang was executed in December last year on treason charges.

Han's father is known to have been purged recently as part of the Kim regime's continued work to clear the remnants of the Jang era. A senior official at Han's school told Yonhap News Agency that, "I asked other students and faculty members about Han's whereabouts but nobody has seen him at least for the past 15 days." Local police came to the school last week in search of Han, added the official.

A source said Han had been picked up by North Korean agents dispatched to Paris. He dramatically escaped while being taken to an airport and he is now staying at a certain location, the source said. If confirmed true, the case could cause a diplomatic rift between North Korea and France.
Nov. 20, 2014: Paris Student Eludes Jong-un’s Spies (Korea Joongang Daily)
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A North Korean architectural student on an overseas education program in Paris escaped from agents sent from Pyongyang to bring him home and is on the run. His family was apparently purged following the execution last December of Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, on treason charges.

Yonhap News Agency reported Wednesday that the student, identified by the surname Han, has attended the Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Architecture de Paris-La Villette since 2011 and was grabbed by North Korean agents on an unknown date at an unknown location.

Han, whose age was not disclosed, reportedly managed to escape from the agents en route to an airport and has been hiding somewhere in Paris with the help of his acquaintance for around two weeks. ...

Han reportedly was aware of his father’s purge and the fact that relatives had been sent to political prison camps. He was certain the same fate would await him at home, prompting him to escape en route to the airport.

The dramatic downfall of Jang, the husband of Kim Kyong-hui, a younger sister of late leader Kim Jong-il, sent a chill around North Korean diplomatic missions abroad, especially among people considered close or loyal to the 68-year-old uncle. Many were purged. ...

It was reported that Han was one of 10 North Korean students sent to study at the architecture school in Paris in 2011. They reportedly were all from Pyongyang’s elite Kim Il Sung University and children of high-ranking government officials.

An official at the school was quoted as saying that local police are now trying to track down Han’s whereabouts and that he has been missing for at least 15 days. ...
Nov. 21: Mystery Surrounds N.Korean Student in Kidnap Attempt (The Chosun Ilbo)
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The Foreign Ministry is trying to confirm French reports that a young North Korean studying in Paris remains missing after escaping from agents who tried to bring him back to the North. The ministry said on Thursday that it is "assessing the situation and taking necessary measures" in close cooperation with French authorities.

According to French media, the North Korean student, surnamed Han, had been attending the prestigious Ecole Nationale Superieure d'Architecture de Paris-La Villette after being invited to study there by the French government in 2011. Early this month he was seized and bundled to the airport by a team of North Korean agents but managed to escape and went into hiding.

There are rumors that Han is the son of an aide to executed North Korean eminence grise Jang Song-taek, and that his father was purged along with other supporters, making him guilty by association. But a government source here was unable to confirm that.

Jang, the once powerful uncle of the North's leader Kim Jong-un, was executed in December of last year after being found guilty of treason and his supporters purged. Diplomatic sources said North Korea merely added to the endless string of reasons for international condemnation by trying to kidnap someone on foreign soil.
Nov. 21: North Korean Student 'Kidnapped' In Paris (Sky News)
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Paris prosecutors are investigating the disappearance of a North Korean student linked to political rivals of leader Kim Jong-Un, a judicial source said. There are fears the student, identified only as Han, may have been forcibly taken back to North Korea to be executed.

The student was reportedly picked up by the agents but dramatically escaped while being taken to the airport. However, he has not been seen for at least 15 days. ...

Han's father is also known to have been "purged" recently, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported, as part of the Kim regime's continued work to clear the remnants of the Jang era. ...

Han and nine other North Koreans have been studying at a prestigious architecture college in Paris since 2011 after being offered places by the French government. Le Parisien newspaper reported on Friday that the other nine had also disappeared at the same time as Han, but had since reappeared. The newspaper reported that France has been discreetly allowing North Korean students to come to France to study architecture since 2002. A teacher at the school revealed that North Korean students were closely watched.

"There was often a suited Asian man who came to classes," said the teacher, who was not named. "One time, a representative of the North Korean delegation in Paris wanted to resit the exams in the place of a student who had failed the year."That student was "never seen again," the teacher added.
Nov. 23: Audacious North Korean Kidnap Plot Foiled at Paris Airport as 'Asian Men' Attempted to Bundle Student onto Plane (The Independent)
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A student in his early 20s was kidnapped, probably by North Korean agents, outside an architectural college north of Paris. The young man, named only as Han, the son of a senior North Korean official who was recently executed, has not been seen in public since.

It was reported at the weekend, however, that the student had evaded his kidnappers at Charles de Gaulle airport as he was about to be bundled on to a flight to China. He is now reported to be living at a secret address somewhere in France, probably under French government protection.

Four other North Korean students have also failed to attend classes near Paris since his disappearance, but they are believed to be lying low, waiting for the incident to blow over. The episode has been shrouded in great secrecy on all sides. Although France has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, Paris appears to be anxious to avoid a public slanging match with the unpredictable and paranoid dictatorship in Pyongyang.

The young man is the son of a senior aide to North Korea’s former No 2, Jang Song-thaek, who was abruptly executed 11 months ago. The student’s father is believed to have been one of a group of officials close to the once powerful Mr Jang who were executed for “treason” last month.

Mr Jang was the uncle of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. Mr Kim came to power after his father, Kim Jong-il, died in April 2012. Although events within the North Korean power structure are notoriously difficult to follow, South Korean intelligence officials have briefed media in Seoul on a series of purges in recent months as Mr Kim and his aides move to expunge all traces of his uncle’s power network.

Mr Han was one of 10 architectural students who travelled to Paris in 2011 as part of a cultural and educational exchange with France. His disappearance was first reported last week by the South Korean news agency Yonhap.

French government sources confirmed on Sunday that he had been seized in early November by a group of Asian men outside his prestigious college, the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-La Villette. The sources said, however, that Mr Han had managed to evade his captors before being placed on a flight to China en route to Pyongyang. Reports in the French and South Korean media suggest that Mr Han might have been “freed” by French border police, possibly alerted by the student himself. The government sources refused to comment on these reports.

The young man is now said to be in hiding. Officials refuse to say whether he plans to seek political asylum in France or South Korea. Four other North Korean students at the architectural school at La Villette, close to Charles de Gaulle airport, have also vanished from view. It is believed, however, that they are still in France and under orders from Pyongyang to lie low. Five North Korean students at another architectural school, Paris-Belleville, in the centre of the capital, are attending their classes normally. Murielle Fréchède, their director of studies, told Le Monde: “They are good students, serious about their work. They are doing  pretty well.” ...
Dec. 2: Mystery Surrounds Disappearance of North Korean Student in France (Time)
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One day in early November a young North Korean student passing through Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris suddenly bolted away from his travel companions and vanished into the crowds. It seemed to be a last-ditch effort to save himself from imprisonment or execution, according to French government officials.

Officials believe the man, whom they have identified only as Han, was escaping from North Korean agents who French authorities believe had abducted him. “He was taken to the airport but he escaped,” says a French official who did not want to be named because she was not authorized to speak about the case. “This is a young guy who is the son of an important man in the North Korean regime. His dad was executed a few months ago so that is why, I suppose, he was targeted.” ...

About two weeks before Han fled his captors he had disappeared from his campus at l’Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Architecture in Paris, according to school officials and French police. A group of North Korean students began studying at the school in 2012 as part of a cultural exchange program between France and North Korea, aimed at improving relations between the two countries.

When Han vanished from the university French police quizzed faculty members and students about where he was, but no one had seen him for about two weeks, according to Yonhap, a South Korean news agency. Han now appears to be in hiding. The French official who spoke to TIME said Han’s location was being kept secret “for his own safety,” but suggested that the government knows where he is.

Pascal Dayez-Burgeon, a North Korea expert who served as a French diplomat in Seoul between 2001 and 2007, believes that after escaping from his captors Han might have headed to South Korea’s embassy in Paris to find refuge and claim asylum. He points to the fact that reports of Han’s escape appeared in South Korea in late November, suggesting that journalists in Seoul had waited until they knew Han was safe before publishing the news.

The alleged kidnapping of Han was the second North Korea-related incident in France in just under a year. Last December another young student, Kim Han-sol, vanished from his university campus in the French coastal city of Le Havre, where he was studying at the Institute of Political Science. Kim, 19, is a nephew of Kim Jong-un and apparently feared he was in danger because of a political purge that was underway in North Korea. The young student stayed out of sight for a week and then reappeared on campus guarded by French police. He now has two bodyguards, “to make sure he will not be abducted by the regime,” according to Dayez-Burgeon.

Kim Han-sol’s family had been closely connected to Jang Song-thaek. The student had another reason to worry: In a Finnish television interview two years ago, when he was 17, he described his grandfather, former leader Kim Jong-il, as having been a “dictator” whom he had barely known growing up.

North Korean students abroad rarely defect. North Korea experts say that could be because possible defectors fear that the government would retaliate against their relatives back home. “They all belong to the elite of the regime, so if they do break away their whole family back home could be held hostage,” says Dayez-Burgeon.
Other articles:
Nov. 19: Son of Jang Song-thaek's aide disappears in Paris (Yonhap News)
Nov. 21: North Korean linked to Kim Jong-un's purged uncle 'goes missing' in Paris (The Telegraph)
Nov. 23: North Korean student tied to Kim’s executed uncle escapes Paris kidnap attempt (Japan Times)
Nov. 24: Worrisome North Korea Kidnapping of Paris Student Fails (Democracy Chronicles)
Nov. 24: North Korean Student Escapes Kidnap Attempt in Paris (News Week)
Nov. 25: North Korean students may have been abducted in Paris (Want China Times)

December 22, 2014, 08:21:40 PM
Reply #1

Offline Peter

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Related:
Dec 1: Pyongyang Purges More Jang Song-thaek Loyalists (Korea Joongang Daily)
Quote
North Korea is engaged in another purge of people close to Jang Song-thaek, the once powerful uncle of leader Kim Jong-un who fell from grace and was executed last Dec. 12, sending a deep chill through the top ranks of the Workers’ Party and the country’s elite.

According to a report to be published Monday by the Institute for National Security Strategy, which is run by the National Intelligence Service, dozens of senior party members were executed or stripped of their titles in a second phase of a purge of allies of the fallen Jang. Some were executed on treason charges, heightening fears among the top party elite with connections to Jang.

The report says the second purge began after the collapse of a new 23-story apartment building that killed more than 400 people in Pyongyang in May. Enraged by the accident, the 31-year-old leader blamed “remnants of Jang Song-thaek” for the collapse because the building was constructed by the Ministry of People’s Security, which used to be overseen by Jang.

The report says 20 officials were either executed by firing squad or sent out of Pyongyang in the purge. Choe Pu-il, head of the security ministry who is also known as a basketball coach of Kim when he was young, was demoted and has been out of public sight since July.

In September, nearly 20 members of the Propaganda and Agitation department and Guidance department of the Communist Party were also shot to death on charges of being anti-party, or guilty of bribery, having improper relationships with women and taking drugs.

In October, the report says about 10 party members were shot to death for their connection to Kim’s uncle. One senior secretary from the Workers’ Party’s Haeju committee was also allegedly executed for watching television dramas from South Korea in October. Some were executed for trivial reasons, such as changing a song lyric that originally praised Kim Jong-un while singing karaoke, the report says.

The string of executions has the entire elite in Pyongyang on edge. According to the report, Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong, who was the de-facto guardian for Kim Jong-un when he studied in Switzerland, fretted about his future because he failed to stop a United Nation’s resolution calling Kim to be referred to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. “Minister Ri Su-yong feared he could not predict what would befall him after all his diplomatic efforts failed to stop the UN resolution,” wrote senior researcher Hyun Sung-il in the report’s opening statement.

Researcher Hyun was a former North Korean diplomat in Zambia who defected to the South in 1996. One senior official at the research institute said there is a rumor among top party members that their country could crumble in less than 10 years in such conditions. “When analyzing Kim’s lip movements during his chats with elderly party members on television, it is not rare to find him insulting them with foul language,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

January 04, 2015, 01:08:02 PM
Reply #2

Offline Peter

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Here's a more recent article. Mr. Han is still believed to be in hiding. Of course, he may be dead or back home as a guest of one of the regime's concentration camps.

Dec. 30: NK Student on the Run in France After Escaping from Pyongyang's Agents (The Telegraph)
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North Korean student "in hiding" in Paris after attempted abduction, say diplomats, as details emerge of France's murky "student cooperation scheme" with the Communist regime to improve Pyongyang's architecture

The son of an aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle is in hiding in France after evading abduction by agents of the Communist regime, foreign diplomatic sources believe.
“There was an attempt to force him to go back, but it is thought he escaped and is somewhere in France. There is an attempt to locate him but he hasn’t been found yet,” said the diplomatic source.

The architecture student, referred to only by his surname Han, went missing last month, raising concerns for his safety. He is believed to be the son of a close confidant of Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong-un’s once powerful uncle who was executed in December last year on treason charges. Han's father is known to have been killed recently as part of a Kim regime purge of Jang allies.

Park Sung-jin, Paris correspondent for Yonhap, South Korea’s biggest news agency which broke the story, said: “Since the 1980s, when the regime changes and someone is executed and his relatives and friends and family are studying abroad, they are brought home. ...