February 26, 2019 09:49
A group calling itself Cheollima Civil Defense, which is believed to have rescued the son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother from his assassination squads, on Monday promised an "important" announcement this week.
The group reportedly spirited Kim Han-sol to safety when North Korean agents assassinated his father Kim Jong-nam in Kuala Lumpur in February 2017.
It has since posted a clip of Han-sol on YouTube encouraging North Koreans to defect. The threat of a mysterious announcement this week suggests that it is designed to throw a monkey wrench in any deal Kim Jong-un is trying to extract from U.S. President Donald Trump.
"We've received a request for help from comrades in a Western country," the group said on its website Monday. "We've responded to it despite a high risk."
It included an e-mail address, saying, "Contact us anytime if you need help."
There is speculation that the announcement could be a message from acting North Korean Ambassador to Italy Jo Song-gil, who disappeared with his family last November.
In its last message in January, the group said, "Everything is changing this year... We're carrying out clandestine activities. Contact us if you need help."
Ahn Chan-il, head of the World Institute for North Korea Studies who used to be a North Korean military officer, said, "Whatever the announcement is, the group seems to have intentionally chosen this timing when the North is on a roll."
The group first announced its presence in March 2017 when it posted a clip of Kim Han-sol, who had gone into hiding.
"We received a request for help from the family of Kim Jong-nam after he was assassinated. We rushed to their rescue and took them to a safe place," it said at the time. "Besides we've also helped other North Koreans defect."
The group uses VPN to make it harder to track. Since then, the group has repeatedly claimed success in helping North Koreans escape or promised to take them to safety.
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