N.Korean Official Held in China for Drug Trafficking

A North Korean provincial government official has been arrested by Chinese police on charges of drug trafficking, supporting claims that the North Korean regime has a direct hand in the trade.

South Korean activist Do Hee-yoon quoting a source in China on Monday said that a 33-year-old official surnamed Rim from the Sinuiju city government's trade bureau was arrested by Chinese police on charges of drug trafficking in Dandong on the evening of March 2.

"North Korean agents targeting South Korea have been arrested before for their involvement in drug trafficking, but it's unprecedented for a senior government trade official to be arrested for direct involvement," Do said. "The Dandong Customs Office has mobilized customs officials from Dalian to probe all aspects of North Korea-China trade."

The drug enforcement bureau of Anshan in Liaoning arrested four drug dealers based on a tip that Dandong drug dealers gained control of the trafficking network in Anshan, he added.

Under questioning, they revealed that a key figure in the drug ring in the Dandong area was a North Korean and that he was soon to arrive. Officers arrested Rim in Dandong on the evening of March 2 about after a month-long stakeout and took him to Anshan.

The bureau confiscated 2 kg of top-quality methamphetamine Rim had hidden in a kimchi container when he traveled from Sinuiju to Dandong, Do said. Rim was reportedly a very influential man in the North Korea-China trade. Despite the danger, he had traveled to China to buy goods necessary for his younger sister's wedding scheduled for March 6 and take bribes.

"It seems Rim took a lot of bribes. There are rumors that he was going to take three large truckloads of goods back to the North," Do said. "Rim's arrest confirms that the North engages in international drug trafficking at the state level," he added.

A South Korean official said the government has similar information but China has not officially confirmed it.

Do's activist group is to file a complaint Tuesday against North Korean leader Kim Jong-il with the International Criminal Court for drug trafficking and torpedoing the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jun. 08, 2010 10:13 KST