N.Korean Brat Pack 'Behind Global Crime'

A brat pack of children of the most powerful officials in North Korea have been involved in worldwide distribution of forged US$100 bills and drug smuggling, the Washington Times reported on Tuesday. Citing U.S. intelligence officials, the daily said the group, named "Ponghwajo" (torch group), was unmasked when South Korea and the U.S. were looking to take sanctions against North Korea.

Ponghwajo is led by O Se-won, the son of Gen. O Kuk-ryol, a senior leader in North Korea's powerful National Defense Commission. Kang Tae-seung, the son of First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok-ju, and Kim Chol, the son of Kim Won-hong, head of the People's Army Security Command, are among members.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's second and third sons Jong-chol and Jong-un are also involved in this group, and according to some officials Jong-chol gets his drugs through Ponghwajo.

Their distribution of counterfeit U.S. dollar bills led the U.S. to impose financial sanctions against North Korea in 2005, the daily said. "We continue to have concerns about North Korean counterfeiting, both manufacturing and distributing counterfeit $100 notes," the paper cited a U.S. Treasury official as saying. They said the U.S. government is considering additional financial sanctions against the North over a torpedo attack on the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan in March.

englishnews@chosun.com / May 26, 2010 12:43 KST