North Korea’s Diplomat and Spymaster: Who Is Kim Yong-chol? | NYT News


You may have never
heard of Kim Yong-chol. But you’ve probably
seen him before. Here he is sitting
next to Ivanka Trump at the Winter Olympics
in Pyeongchang. Here, with the
North Korean leader at the inter-Korean
summit in April. Here, leading a delegation
to South Korea during military talks in 2007. Here, with Kim Jong-il. And here, with Secretary
of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang in May. The former head of
North Korea’s spy agency is said to be one of Kim
Jong-un’s closest aides. He worked for all three
leaders of the Kim dynasty, and is one of its longest-
serving senior officials. But he has a controversial past. He’s still on sanctions lists in
South Korea and the United States. South Korea accuses
Kim Yong-chol of being involved in several
high-profile attacks. He was allegedly
behind the sinking of a South Korean
naval ship in 2010 that killed 46 sailors, and of masterminding
an attack on a South Korean island
the same year. Under his leadership,
North Korea’s spy agency was suspected by the U.S.
of launching a cyberattack against Sony Pictures in 2014. It apparently was
in retaliation to the film “The Interview,”
which mocked Kim Jong-un. “I don’t need my father.” Kim Yong-chol is also no stranger
to nuclear diplomacy. He’s been involved in various
rounds of negotiations to limit North Korea’s
nuclear weapons. This week, he became
the highest-ranking North Korean official to visit the
United States since 2000.

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