Cheollima Civil Defense: Group claims raid on North Korea’s embassy

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A shadowy group committed to ousting North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has claimed it was behind a raid last month at the North Korean embassy in Spain.

Cheollima Civil Defense, a self-styled human rights group, reportedly fled with computers, a phone and hard discs.

The break-in occurred just days before a key summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The group denied using force, saying it was “not an attack”.

However, a Spanish high court judge said the 10 assailants shackled, beat and interrogated embassy staff in the incident on 22 February.

It remains unclear why the raid took place. Cheollima wrote online that it had “responded to an urgent situation in the Madrid embassy”.

It said it had “shared information of enormous potential value” with the FBI, the US intelligence agency, “under mutually agreed terms of confidentiality”.

What happened in the raid?

On Tuesday Judge José de la Mata lifted a secret decree on the investigation, according to a document from Spain’s High Court.

The break-in began at 16:34 (15:34 GMT), it said, and most of the intruders fled at 21:40.

The judge said the group had “identified themselves as members of a human rights movement seeking to liberate North Korea”.

One of their number, named as Adrian Hong Chang, allegedly gained access to the embassy by asking to see the commercial attaché, whom he claimed to have met previously to discuss business matters. His accomplices burst in once he was inside, the judge said.

The group are accused of interrogating the attaché and trying to persuade him to defect. When he refused, they left him tied up in the basement, the judge said.

Two other members of the break-in group were named as US citizen Sam Ryu, and a South Korean, Woo Ran Lee.

The judge said that embassy staff were held hostage for several hours.

One woman managed to flee, escaping through a window and screaming for help. Concerned neighbours quickly called the police.

When officers arrived, they were greeted by Adrian Hong Chang, posing as a North Korean diplomat in a jacket with a Kim Jong-un lapel badge.

He told the police that all was well, and nothing had happened.

That evening most of the group fled the embassy in three North Korean diplomatic vehicles, the judge said. Mr Hong Chang and some others left later via the back entrance using another vehicle.

They split up into four groups and headed to Portugal, the court document said.

Mr Hong Chang – a Mexican citizen who lives in the US – allegedly contacted the FBI to give his version of events five days later.

What do we know about this group?

Cheollima Civil Defense (CDC), also known as Free Joseon, is committed to overthrowing North Korea’s ruling Kim dynasty.

A video posted on its website and YouTube page purports to show one of the intruders smashing portraits of North Korea’s communist leaders inside the Madrid embassy.

CDC first came to prominence after taking credit for getting Kim Jong-un’s nephew, Kim Han-sol, safely out of Macau after the assassination of his father.

Kim Jong-nam – who was the North Korean leader’s estranged half-brother – was murdered at an airport in Malaysia in 2017.

Kim Han-sol has expressed his desire to go back to North Korea, and has referred to his uncle as a “dictator”.