SEOUL, Aug. 22 (UPI) — A senior North Korean official in charge of Kim Jong Un‘s slush fund Room 39 may have defected from an undisclosed location in Europe.
The official, who goes by the pseudonym Kim Myong Chol, may be deciding between fleeing to the United States and South Korea, local news service No Cut News reported Monday.
It is the second recent high-profile defection, after Thae Yong Ho, deputy envoy to London, defected to South Korea last week.
Kim was reportedly under tremendous pressure to earn foreign currency for the cash-strapped regime. When he recently was unable to meet a state-mandated benchmark, one of his family members died while in custody, according to multiple South Korean press reports.
A source who spoke on the condition of anonymity to No Cut News said Kim recently fled taking with him a “large sum of money” that was under his supervision.
For the escaped official, the United States and South Korea present unique disadvantages as asylum destinations. According to the source, Kim’s assets would be seized in compliance with U.S. regulations. But in South Korea his personal safety may be an issue due to its proximity to the North.
Kim maintained numerous bank accounts under different names in order to complete complex transactions for the North Korean regime, South Korean newspaper Donga Ilbo reported Monday.
One of the accounts was under the name of a fictitious Indian national. Sometimes Kim would send a lawyer with the power of attorney to remit funds from an account under a borrowed name, to another account, where he would then withdraw the money in cooperation with a bank branch manager.
Kim took advantage of loopholes at small banks in Europe to complete transactions, according to the report.
Room 39, a branch of the North Korean regime that handles the country’s illicit financial activities, is under Kim Jong Un’s direct supervision.
Income from the jointly operated Kaesong Industrial Complex, shut down in February, was also funneled to the slush fund, according to South Korean magazine Sisa Journal.