BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Su, who according to international media reports, was once arrested in October 2016 after attempting to smuggle ivory fashioned into bangles on a flight from Ethiopia to China, yesterday confirmed he was the ultra-communist country’s Harare envoy although the DPRK has no official embassy in the country.
He initially promised to visit the NewsDay offices to set the record straight about his background, but later requested for a private meeting along Airport Road, as he denied ever being arrested or associated with ivory smuggling.
“It’s fake, that’s all we can say. Yes it’s my name. But who gave you this and when did you get this information,” Su queried.
The Korean envoy said another journalist had been sniffing around the same issue and the DPRK’s embassy in South Africa had responded
“Are you the one who sent an email to South Africa? Our embassy told them that it’s fake. It’s about two months ago, it’s not true,” the envoy said.
Government sources privy to the issue said the DPRK embassy in South Africa was uncomfortable with questions around Su’s activities.
After his interception in Ethiopia where disguised ivory was found in his baggage, Su became one of the 18 North Korean diplomats implicated by international wildlife trafficking monitors in 29 confirmed cases of ivory and rhino horn smuggling in the past three decades.
All the officials, including Su, were not arrested because of diplomatic immunity and were never reported to have been punished by the DPRK government.
North Korea closed its embassy in Harare in 1998 and now maintains full diplomatic relations with less than 15 sub-Saharan African countries.
The DPRK embassy in Pretoria has angrily denied constant accusations from international conservationists that the North Korean government was acting in complicity as it had never punished diplomats that had brought the country’s name into disrepute.
According to a recent report by respected conservationist Julian Rademayer for the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime — a Geneva-based network comprising law enforcement, government and development experts — 18 North Korean diplomats have been involved in ivory and rhino horn trafficking in the past 30 years.
In May 2015 Pak Chol-Jun, a political counsellor from North Korea’s Pretoria embassy and Kim Jong-Su, a Pretoria-based taekwondo master, were arrested in Mozambique with nearly $100,000 in cash and 4,5kg of rhino horns.
The North Korean ambassador to South Africa reportedly negotiated the men’s release, but South Africa eventually expelled the political counsellor.
Ivory and rhino horns are in huge demand in Asia, particularly in the Far East, where they fetch handsome prices on the black market.
Foreign Affairs secretary Joey Bimha recently revealed that the government was complying with a request from the United Nations Security Council to investigate the operations of some companies believed to be linked to the North Korean government and accused of threatening international peace and security through its nuclear weapons programme.
Bimha said only one DPRK company linked to tobacco merchant Rudo Boka is operating in Zimbabwe at the moment.
Strenuous efforts to get comment from Bimha since last week were fruitless while Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo was unreachable as he is on an international diplomatic offensive to attract foreign direct investments into the country.