North Korea has appointed a new ambassador to the Kingdom of Sweden, Kang Yong Dok (강용덕), the Korean Central News Agency reported Sunday.
This appointment fills a diplomatic post which had been vacant since December of last year, when the previous holder, Pak Kwang Chol, was recalled to Pyongyang. Pak was reportedly a close aide to Kim Jong Un’s late uncle, Jang Song Taek, and his recall was part of the purge of Jang and his associates. Pak was likely imprisoned or, perhaps, even executed.
Nothing is publicly known yet about Kang. This appointment marks his first mention in North Korean state media.
The North Korean ambassador to Sweden typically also serves as non-resident ambassador to several other countries including Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Lithuania and Latvia. These appointments are typically made separately and are not always tied together, though.
Sweden plays an important role in North Korea’s relations with the rest of the world, largely due to its reputation as a neutral nation. The Swedish embassy often acts on behalf of the interests of countries which don’t have formal relations with Pyongyang, such as the United States and otherwise acts as a neutral mediator. This past May, the Swedish capital of Stockholm served as the neutral venue for talks between North Korea and Japan.
Additionally, Sweden, along with Switzerland and formerly Poland and Czechoslovakia (before its split) serves as a member of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission. Established by the Korean Armistice Agreement of 1953, the NNSC is composed of military officials from nations that did not participate in the Korean War. The NNSC serves in the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone where it conducts inspections, ensures compliance with the armistice in the JSA, and otherwise helps to facilitate peaceful interactions between the two sides.
Photo: DPRK embassy in Stockholm, Wikimedia Commons, user Stefan4
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