North Korean Ambassador to Burma to Be Replaced Due to Sanctions

Michael Song, April 1, 2016, 8:09 a.m.

North Korean Ambassador to Burma Kim Sok-chol has been sent packing after being blacklisted by South Korea and the U.S. over his involvement in the North's illicit arms trade. Kim left Burma on March 17 and his successor Jong Ho-bom arrived there last week, a government source here said on Thursday. Kim is suspected of involvement in illicit arms deals in Burma by the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, a North Korean firm blacklisted by the UN Security Council and the U.S.

The U.S. Treasury put Kim on a special sanctions list in November last year, a first for a foreign ambassador. Seoul also put him on a financial sanctions list of 40 individuals and 30 agencies when it announced its own North Korea sanctions on March 8. Under a UNSC resolution from March 2, UN member states must deport any North Korean diplomat found to have been involved in illicit activities.

"It's not clear whether Kim's departure was a result of Burma implementing the UNSC resolution or of the North recalling him pre-emptively, because any diplomat is as good as dead from a professional point of view if he is put on a blacklist," a diplomatic source here said.

Burma established diplomatic relations with the North in 1975 but severed ties in 1983 after North Korean agents tried to assassinate then-President Chun Doo-hwan in Rangoon. They restored ties in 2007, and Kim had been ambassador since then. 

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