April 03, 2018 09:52
The head of North Korea's United Front Department on Monday identified himself as "what South Koreans are calling the mastermind of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan sinking" in 2010.
Kim Yong-chol was talking to South Korean reporters who were in Pyongyang to cover concerts by South Korean musicians there but had been kept out of the first performance on Sunday.
In a hastily arranged meeting at the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang, he apologized for keeping them cooped up in the lobby of the theatre where the performance was held.
"It was wrong to restrict you from free media coverage and filming," Kim said. "Let me offer an apology or ask for your understanding." But he introduced himself as the "mastermind of the Cheonan sinking," apparently more in jest than in earnest.
Kim was the chief of the General Bureau of Reconnaissance, which is charged with espionage against South Korea, from February 2009 to early 2016, and South Korean military and intelligence authorities concluded that the bureau was behind the sinking.
But both the regime and Kim himself claim the entire operation was faked and have never apologized for the death of 46 South Korean sailors.
It seems that by joking about his role, Kim was in fact trying to distance himself from the attack. But the families of the fallen sailors were enraged. A spokesperson said it was "intolerable" for Kim to joke about the incident.
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