Kim Jong Nam murder: North Korea's combative envoy in Malaysia Kang Chol was open with media

North Korean ambassador Kang Chol, 64, began his diplomatic career as an assistant officer in the Middle East Department of North Korea's Foreign Ministry.
North Korean ambassador Kang Chol, 64, began his diplomatic career as an assistant officer in the Middle East Department of North Korea's Foreign Ministry.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR, KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) -Combative North Korean ambassador Kang Chol was his country's first chief diplomat to Malaysia who called on media organisations and invited journalists to his official receptions.

Kang made two visits to The Star newspaper's headquarters in Petaling Jaya last year, in January and later in March - both at his request. During the meetings, he seemed at ease talking about his country, which is nicknamed the Hermit Kingdom due to its isolationist policies.

Kang, who is comfortable speaking in English, described the test-firing of missiles by the North Korean regime as "normal", and said Pyongyang was a beautiful city which welcomed tourists.

When it was pointed out to him that it was unprecedented for a North Korean ambassador to be open with the media, he smiled and carried on with the conversation.

The 64-year-old's geniality contrasted with the combative stance he has adopted since North Korea leader Kim Jong Un's estranged half brother Kim Jong Nam was murdered in Malaysia last week.

Jong Nam was killed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport by what is believed to be a poisonous liquid sprayed on his face by a Vietnamese woman and an Indonesian woman. His brother is believed to have ordered the killing.

Kang said last week that North Korea will not accept the result of the autopsy conducted by Malaysian authorities because it had been done without the presence of North Korean officials.

Kang also demanded that Malaysia hand over his body to the embassy.  He alleged that the investigation by the Malaysian police was “politically motivated” and he could not trust it, and demanded a joint investigation of the case with the North Korean government.

According to his official biodata, Kang has two children and studied at the Pyongyang University of Foreign Language (1972-73) and Somalia National University (1973-76).

He began his diplomatic career as an assistant officer in the Middle East Department of North Korea's Foreign Ministry.

He has been posted to Somalia and Ethiopia and also served as the ministry's director-general of administrative affairs.

On Feb 13, the day Kim Jong Nam was murdered at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, the envoy hosted a reception in the evening to celebrate the birth anniversary of his nation's founder Kim Il Sung - Jong Nam's grandfather - at a North Korean restaurant in Jalan Kamuning, Imbi.

Among those on the invitation list were people he knew from the media.

 

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein on Thursday slammed Kang for his undiplomatic allegations.

“Whatever criminal case that happens must be investigated under the law of the country it is committed in, and thus I agree with the opinion that the North Korean ambassador had gone overboard from his duties as an ambassador," Datuk Seri Hishammuddin told reporters.

“He 'terlebih dah' (crossed the line). To me, this is a diplomatic irregularity. I think the ambassador was rude in his comments on this matter."