North Korean Claims of ‘Terrorism’ from Inside Chinese Territory: An Annotated Analysis

By | August 14, 2012 | No Comments

The DPRK asserts that South Korean agents, funded and informed by US intelligence, are desirous of blowing up the new crop of Kim Jong Il statues.  A floral basket from Kim Jong Un stands guard over this example, which was recently displayed in the Military Hardware Exhibition House of the Korean People’s Army in Pyongyang. | Image via, “No Motherland Without Him; The Statues of Kim Jong Il.”

North Korean Claims of ‘Terrorism’ from Inside Chinese Territory: An Annotated Analysis

by Adam Cathcart and Brian Gleason

This past July 19, a very strange case emerged at a North Korean press conference where Jon Yong Chol, a repentant former defector, asserted a US/South Korean “terrorist plot” to hit statues in the DPRK.

The press conference did not get a great deal of coverage; if anything, it seemed that it was being viewed as one of those bizarre instances of North Korea trying to mobilize its own people to vigilance.  Stephan Haggard (“Spies and Sabotage,” July 27) saw it, however, as something more, perhaps as the North Koreans looking for a pretext to test a nuclear weapon and pin the US with a “terrorist state” label.

Certainly the details of the conference, and the way that domestic propaganda has continued, indicated Pyongyang was using the episode as a way heighten war-readiness in North Korea. North Korean television has since used the allegations as a way of playing up the theme of an all-around American plot to encircle the DPRK. Jon Yong Chol, the centerpiece of the press conference, has thus been seen in North Korean poster art and television broadcasts, his face at all times a reminder to the populace of the presence of external enemies, the need to protect the symbols of the motherland against them, and the need for loyalty to those symbols.  Embedded in those themes are other connotations, such as the potentially destructive action of engaging in (illegal) cell phone calls on the northern frontier. [1]

A black-and-white photo of Jun Yong-chol’s press conference is a core element in a new DPRK poster urging the smashing of imperialist plots | Image via Uriminzokki

However, as the following annotated document shows, the press conference itself (if not the campaign which has subsequently unfolded around it) primarily functioned as a means of expressing anger at China, complaining about the laxness of Chinese border security, and a griping about the PRC’s new ties with South Korean intelligence agencies. The content of the dispute is new, as is the North Korean means of expressing discontent.

The July 19 press conference did not emerge out of a vacuum: North Korea had a very clear intended purpose for it.  We believe that the assertions are connected strongly to the Kim Young-hwan case, and indicate that that case did not get worked out completely to the North Korean satisfaction. Strong evidence exists to indicate that North Korea feels betrayed by the PRC in the public discussion of defector issues and that the defector issue is becoming increasingly politicized between the two socialist allies themselves.

A brief look at the timeline may be of some use:

March 2: Korea Times:

President Lee Myung-bak called for Beijing’s cooperation over the issue of North Korean refugees in China during talks with the Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, in Seoul. The South, apparently breaking from its pattern of “quiet diplomacy” over the repatriation policy, has become increasingly vocal on the matter. The National Assembly has also passed a resolution demanding an end to the policy.

March 16: China voiced concern over the DPRK’s plan to launch a satellite in April.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun met with Ji Jae Ryong, DPRK ambassador to China, on Friday to express China’s worry over the matter, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

March 27: China to let N. Koreans leave for S. Korea: report.

Some of the North Korean fugitives who have taken refuge for many months in South Korean consulates in China will soon be allowed by Beijing to leave for Seoul, a report said Wednesday. “The Chinese government has an internal policy guideline, under which North Koreans who have been living in South Korean consular offices for 30 months or more will be allowed to leave the country,” a diplomatic source told the daily. “Other North Koreans arrested across Chinese territory will be repatriated to the North under this guideline,” the source said.

March 29: Kim Young-hwan is abducted/arrested in Dalian, in the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning, with three South Korean colleagues. After his release, Kim told a news conference that “China’s National Security Ministry officials didn`t even know much about who I was until three to four days after my arrest.” Moreover, “There is the possibility that China didn’t know how important Kim was until North Korea’s State Security Department provided information on him belatedly,” a South Korean official said.  The Daily NK highlighted the strange circumstances surrounding the group’s subsequent incarceration, including plausible North Korean involvement in the interrogation.

April 4: A group of five North Korean defectors, including one family, arrived in the South after hiding for years at a South Korean consulate in China.

April 13: China joined the other members of the UN Security Council in a unanimous condemnation of the launch – a marked divergence from China’s previous stance of “urging calm and restraint” in the wake of North Korea’s 2009 launch of the Unha-2 rocket.

April 19: The Daily Yomiuri reports: “The Chinese government has suspended deporting North Korean defectors in accordance with a request from the South Korean government, according to sources working for Chinese and North Korean authorities.”

July 12: DailyNK: “PRC Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu arrived in South Korea at the beginning of a three-day visit, the first by a head of Chinese public security since South Korea and China established diplomatic relations in 1992… South Korean officials have confirmed that the ongoing case of Kim’s detention will be raised, although they are cautious to avoid linking Meng’s visit with the release of the four men… However, past visits by Chinese senior officials have led to the arrival of ‘diplomatic gifts.’”

July 18: Chinese Experts Believe N. Korea Developing Nukes For EMP Attacks: Report. “Chinese defense experts suspect North Korea is developing compact nuclear weapons that could be detonated high above the Earth in an attack designed to disable rival nations’ electronic weapon systems, the Washington Times cited a new Chinese report as stating” (see GSN, July 18).

The June report in a Chinese Communist Party-controlled publication said the recent disruption of some South Korean airplanes’ GPS capabilities had been linked to the North Korean military. Writing for the Hong Kong-based Bauhinia monthly journal, military analyst Li Daguang said North Korea’s developing capacities could undermine the South Korean military’s weapons and data and other resources.

July 20: North Korean human rights activist Kim Young-hwan was finally released on July 20 after 114 days in a Chinese prison.

July 20: Al Jazeera: “North Korea said it had no choice but to ‘completely review’ the nuclear issue after accusing the US and South Korea over a plot to blow up a statue of its founding leader. It did not elaborate on what was meant by a review, but it will add to concerns Pyongyang may be planning to conduct a third nuclear test.”

According to KCNA, Jon Yong-chol said he twice visited China’s northeastern city of Yanji – in March and May this year – where he was taught by South Korean agents how to use an explosive device that could be set off by mobile phone.

(End of timeline)

The above list contains a number of potential friction points for China and North Korea, but if only two points can be chosen for “cause-effect” treatment, we would point to the July 13 visit of PRC Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu went to the ROK.  As Haggard explained earlier this month:

[Kim Young-hwan’s] release followed a visit by PRC Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu to Seoul, the first such visit by a Chinese head of public security since the normalization of relations. Press coverage suggests that Meng met with Foreign Minister Kim Sung Hwan, Minister of Justice Kwan Jae Jin and National Intelligence Service Director Won Se Hun; we would have loved to be a fly on the wall in those discussions. (Stephan Haggard, “Getting Out of North Korea,” August 2).

The Kim Young-hwan case thus appears to have provided the pretext for the first meetings between Chinese Public Security leaders and South Korean intelligence counterparts.

The reason this would infuriate DPRK would be obvious.

The question is then: how does this press conference indicate the type of anger or issues North Korea is expressing concern over with regard to defectors more broadly and border security more specifically?  Perhaps a re-reading of this document and its new annotations will provide some answers.


Jon Yong Chol’s press conference has become a ubiquitous trope in North Korean propaganda | Image via Uriminzokki TV

Arrested Terrorist Interviewed

Rodong Sinmun, July 19,2012 [2]

annotations by

Jon Yong Chol, defector to south Korea from the north, was interviewed by reporters at the People’s Palace of Culture on July 19.[3] He was arrested as he was trying to perpetrate [the] hideous crime of destroying statues and monuments in the DPRK at the instructions of the U.S. and south Korean intelligence agencies.

Present at the interview were reporters of DPRK and the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan and Chinese, Russian, U.S. and Japanese reporters.

Overseas compatriots took part in the interview as observers.

Jon Yong Chol spoke first. He lived in Songrim-dong No. 2, Songphyong District, Chongjin City of North Hamgyong Province before defecting to south Korea and joining in the moves for destroying monuments of the DPRK by the U.S. and south Korean intelligence agency.

Jon said that he is an unpardonable criminal as he betrayed the motherland and took the criminal path. But he requested for a press conference thinking that he could not die before indicting the south Korean puppet regime for its heinous terrorist plot,[4] he said, and went on:

Finding it hard to overcome temporary difficulties I had been engaged in illegal trading, broking, etc. I received money from a woman and helped her cross the border. Fear of punishment following its disclosure, I fled to China on April 24, 2010.

Wandering here and there I was tempted by an agent of the south Korean Intelligence Service (IS) surnamed Pak and gave him information about the inner situation of the DPRK several times.[5] Guided by him, I went to south Korea. After going through investigation by IS agents and “education” at “Hanawon” I could live in Thoegye-dong, Chunchon City in Kangwon Province of south Korea from March last year.

Referring to the whole story about the course by which he received a terrorist mission from IS agents, Jon Yong Chol went on:

On around November 8 last year[6] when I was frivoling time away without any job, I happened to meet Kim Song Min, who introduced him as representative of the anti-DPRK plot-breeding organization “Front for Liberation of North Korean People”[7] in Seoul with the help of Ri Su Bok whom I got known at “Hanawon.”

Kim Song Min is a bad man who defected to south Korea after committing crimes.

He formed a “statue demolition society” in the above-said front. He said that the U.S. and south Korean “government” authorities actively back the “society” with deep interest in it, and persistently persuaded me to join it if I want to make a huge amount of money.

A few days later, Ko Tong Gyun who looked around 40 years old and a man surnamed Sim who looked about 50 called on me saying that they were sent by Kim Song Min.

They said that they provided Kim Song Min with a lot of money for the formation of the “statue demolition society” and terrorist acts but every attempt failed, adding that I seemed to be most suitable to do the job.

They were agents of the south Korean intelligence body who manipulate Kim Song Min behind the scene.

Early in December last year, a “section chief” reminded me of the operation of the “statue demolition society” and briefed me on statue-blowing program and explosive device which was already in preparation.

According to it, the explosive device (launcher) is latest equipment which looked like a thermos bottle capable of destroying at the target within 150-300 meters.

For 12 hours since [sic] the target was leveled, it will be in automatic state. When the man who set it switches it [i.e., “the launcher”] on by remote controller within 4-6 kilometers, it will be automatically launched to blow the target.[8]

They told me about the process of the “undertaking”.

When the manufacture of explosive device was completed, the user first was to go to the area of China bordering the DPRK and be on standby after casing the target.[9] The explosive device is a terrorist weapon under worldwide control. It consists of three parts. The three parts were to be smuggled separately through different routes and assembled on the spot before undergoing performance test. Finally it was to be handed over to the man who was to carry out the “undertaking”. The terrorist would go to the DPRK via secret route and set the device ready to go off. When the exploding time is set on the spot, a satellite would photograph the area while staying in the sky above the area for 30 minutes or an hour before the explosion.[10]

Jon Yong Chol then elaborated on how the south Korean puppet regime drew up the operation and tried to put it into practice.

At about 8:30 a.m. on December 21 last year, the “section chief” and two agents again called on me to give me the operation program they had worked out, Jon said, adding:

According to it, I was to get disguised as smuggler and prepare two same boxes which looked like the box of personal belongings. I was to give one box with bribes in it to a smuggler who opened up the secret border path and carry another one containing the launcher to my mother’s, to stave off his suspicion.

I was to go up to the rooftop of an apartment before the statue and set the explosive device under the roof and then drop in at my mother’s house. There I was to give a mobile phone containing the remote controller to my mother and request her to press the button of the mobile phone (button of remote controller) to call me if there is no news from me until 7 o’clock in the morning. Then I was to leave the house.

I was to cross the border again to China with the smuggler’s help and destroy the statue by pressing the button of another remote controller which I was carrying.

According to the program, if my remote controller does not work for any impairment, my mother was to press the button to call me and then the statue will automatically be destroyed.[11]

Those agents sped to the U.S. saying that the program should finally be approved by the U.S. to get funded.

On December 27, the agents called on me to say that the program was approved by the U.S. and I must succeed this time.[12]

I set February as the month for demolition, but the “undertaking” had to be prolonged to April as the explosive device was not prepared.

They said if April 15 is set as the day of the “undertaking”, it would spoil the atmosphere for celebrations of the Day of the Sun which the north had prepared with much effort, spread the rumor and stir up the mindset of the people in the north, adding that it will thus spark off a big furor.[13] They emphasized that the incident should be spread to have been committed by the people in the DPRK not by outside forces.[14]

This was the purpose sought by the U.S. and south Korean puppet regime.

On March 24, 2012, I arrived in Yanji, China by air.[15]

But, the “undertaking” slated for April had to be postponed again because explosive device was not ready.

According to the “undertaking” program slated for 00:00 on July 27, the anniversary of the victory in the Fatherland Liberation War, I went to China again together with Ko Tong Gyun on May 5.

When we were standing by in Yanji, Ko showed me the technical manual of the explosive device which included detailed information about assembling and use of the launcher and the results of explosion, etc.

If succeeded, the explosion will reduce the target to ashes and the remaining parts of the explosive device will also go off. So, no one will be able to know about it except the one who remote-controlled it.

I, together with Ko, made preparations to open the border route as indicated by Sim.

At around 9:30 p.m. on May 13, I went to the opposite shore of Tuman River with Ko and Sim to assure them of the security of the secret border route.

That day Sim told me to wait for future instruction, saying blasting installations would be ready by the end of June.

In the meantime I constantly got in touch with Sim who returned to south Korea and a guy called Son Ki Man who introduced himself as chief of the Defense Security Command of the south Korean army.

This indicates the general mobilization of south Korean intelligence and plot-breeding organs.[16]

As it is not bad to confirm the spot, I crossed the border at around 11:00 p.m. on June 18 and made my way to the border city in the DPRK side. After learning about the statue and its surrounding area, I was going back to the border side when I was arrested at around 2:00 a.m.

However, this did not mean an end to mean plot of the enemies.

Though I was detected and arrested, the U.S. and the south Korean intelligence organs would continue producing more Jon Yong Chol and make desperate efforts to put into practice hideous terrorist plots which they failed this time.

I came to clearly know through my experiences that their reckless acts are just as foolish a daydream as trying to sweep the sea with a broom.


Answering questions raised by journalists, Jon Yong Chol said that the south Korean regime set up “groups” and “organizations” with defectors to the south, other betrayers and wicked hostile elements, kicking up madcap anti-DPRK confrontation rackets.

He named the “Front for Liberation of North Korean People” as a typical example. This is a plot-breeding organization the purpose of which is to undermine the DPRK and “overturn its social system.” Recently, they are hatching a mean plot to infiltrate “special operation team” into the DPRK being assigned the duty of raising “turmoil” in it.

An organization specializes in writing graffiti on public buildings and spreading false rumors at markets in the north.[17]

South Korean conservative media as well as “Radio Free North Korea” and “Radio North Korean Reform” mainly consisting of defectors to the south are being engaged in slandering the DPRK almost every day.

Meanwhile, the regime prods ultra-right conservative organizations and gangsters to hold “lectures”, “round-table talks”, “seminar” and the like every day to find fault with the DPRK.[18]

Jon cited detailed facts to prove that the U.S. is being deeply involved in the recent hideous political-motivated terrorist case. He confessed that he not only betrayed his family, home and the country but also perpetrated the high treason of hurting them, being preoccupied with getting money.

Those who get involved in the south Korean regime’s terrorist acts and sabotage, being bribed by money, will only meet disgrace and death being branded as traitors, he said, adding: I would like to advise them to take a proper way for the country and people though belatedly.[19]

The U.S. and south Korean regime had better stop imprudent acts, well aware that they can never break the close single-minded unity in the DPRK, no matter how desperately they may try to escalate confrontation with it.

Rodong News Team

[1] Given the immense resources poured into statue- and monument-building activity since the death of Kim Jong-il, North Korean state media wishes to place opposition to the activity fully in the enemy camp, and again rally the populace around their alleged desire to see more statues of Kim Jong Il and father.

[2] The identical story also appeared in KCNA (English), July 19, 2012,

[3] Jon Yong Chol’s press conference followed on the heels of a similar conference by Pak Jong Suk, an older woman also from Chongjin, on June 28.  The only time prior to these two 2012 press conferences was in 2000, when defector Yu Tae-jun gave a talk in Pyongyang. See Yonhap,; see also Stephan Haggard,

[4] Besides the risible idea that any North Korean citizen, let alone a past defector, could themselves initiate the press conference, of interest is the working assumption by the defector that he deserves death for his actions.

[5] A slightly awkward moment arises when the assumption must be broached that the state media does not in fact report the real situation “about the inner situation of the DPRK.”

[6] In such a statement, nothing is really left to chance, certainly not the placing of specific details as dates.  This whole narrative really kicks off with November 8, 2011, coinciding precisely with the beginning of a visit to China by Ri Tae Chol, the head of North Korean Ministry of Interior Forces, during which clearly some controversies and mutual Sino-North Korean dissatisfactions were brewing.  See Adam Cathcart and Michael Madden, “China-North Korea Document Dossier No. 3,”, forthcoming.

[7] See Steve Herman, “Former North Korean Soldiers Vow to Overthrow Kim Family Rule, Voice of America,

[8] Almost precisely correspondent to the distance of Chinese cell phone penetration into North Korea.

[9] It now becomes clear the role that Chinese territory plays in this discussion. The freeness with which this is discussed is remarkable.

[10] Unclear if this means “satellite” as is normally understood (planetary orbit) or “unmanned aerial drone.” For North Korean reports which imply concern about Chinese airspace being used by the US for unmanned aerial spy drones, see KCNA, “Chinese Paper on US Military Drone Approaching to China and DPRK,” May 8, 2011,

[11] Not only are anti-filial actions of defectors are here given about as explicit a pedagogical bent as possible – the specter is raised that merely by using a foreign cell phone, a person could be directly responsible for blowing up the statue of Kim Jong Il or Kim Il Song.

[12] The timing is of note here; December 27, 2011, was squarely in the mourning period for Kim Jong-il. The disrespect of the South Koreans and the Americans for North Korea’s leadership system is thus reemphasized.  In DPRK propaganda, then, the death of Kim Jong Il serves as an accelerating factor in the ostensibly frenzied Western and ROK attempts to bring down North Korea’s social system.

[13] This merges with another trope in the DPRK, that being the anger of the South Korean efforts to besmirch North Korea’s extensive and expensive preparations for April 15.

[14] For skepticism about claims made by Rimjin-gang and other groups sending video cameras into the DPRK about such manufactured “events” as being merely false and means to extract money from ROK and Japanese television stations, see BR Myers, Cleanest Race.

[15] SinoNK’s editor had been in Yanji the week prior; his observations and those of many others of the security environment in the border region are included in Stephan Haggard, “Border Security Roundup,” Witness to Tranformation (Blog), May 8, 2012,  For a detailed roundup of rumors of North Korean state agents in Yanji in early March, 2012, see Jende Huang, “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Recent Activity on the Sino-DPRK Frontier (Part 3),”,

[16] The assertion of a general mobilization of South Korean intelligence organizations on the Chinese side of the border is quite interesting – the assumption being that China is simply allowing these men free rein.

[17] This appears to be an acknowledgement that anti-state graffiti exists in the DPRK, consider the fact that no refugees interviewed by Haggard and Noland had ever recalled actually seeing graffiti themselves, but had sharp recollection of a 3-year-old rumor about it, indicate that the subject is taken very seriously by DPRK leadership. As for acknowledging rumors in markets, see Christopher Green, “Beware the North Korean Rumor Mill,” Destination Pyongyang, July 5, 2012, <>

[18] KCNA occasionally attacks activity by ostensibly independent academics going on outside of North Korea, asserting that it is all state-funded by ROK conservatives.  See KCNA, “Minju Joson Accuses US of Conspiratorial Plots before Election,” June 1, 2012.

[19] “Rate of Double-Defectors to North is on the Rise,” JoongAng Ilbo, July 30, 2012, <>

No Comments

  1. Some thoughts that may deserve further consideration/analysis:

    1) The repeated use of “insulting dignity” in the KCNA article

    2) Turning the tables on the US and its allies. The US accuses NK/others of human rights abuses/terror but now the US is guilty. North Korea has been denounced for abducting South Korean and Japanese citizens (especially now that Ban Ki Moon is working on securing the release of Shin Suk-ja and her two daughters). Now, NK can claim that one of its citizens is the victim of “abductions” at the hands of its enemies.

    3) Even though the Obama administration decided to keep North Korea off the list of state sponsors of terrorism, North Korea decides to accuse the US/SK of terrorism

    4) NK could certainly be accused of terrorism for the GPS jamming of commercial flights. Moreover, some of their previous threats against SK newspapers/other threatening rhetoric could be classified as terrorist threats.

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