About the Author
View more articles by Hamish Macdonald
Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
The Spanish Ministry of the Interior is currently investigating an incident alleged to have occurred at the DPRK embassy in Madrid, an official confirmed to NK News on Wednesday.
Spanish outlet El Confidencial first reported that the DPRK embassy had been the subject of an attack and break-in last Friday, with diplomatic staff said to have been tied up and gagged while computer equipment was stolen.
“We can confirm that this is under investigation, but that is the only thing we can say,” an official from the communications department of the Ministry of the Interior said.
When pressed to confirm a robbery had in fact taken place, the official reiterated that they had nothing more to add.
Spanish newspaper El Pais also reported the Ministry as saying the matter was under investigation but acknowledged that “something happened”.
Speaking to NK News on Wednesday, KF-VUB Korea Chair at the Institute for European Studies Ramon Pacheco Pardo said that “there was definitely an incident, as confirmed by Spanish investigators and neighbors living in the area.”
The Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union, and Cooperation did not respond to NK News‘s requests for comment, while the DPRK embassy in Madrid did not answer phone calls.
While the Ministry of the Interior would not share details of the alleged incident, El Confidencial reported that a group of men had entered the DPRK embassy and remained in the building for at least four hours.
At 1700, the outlet said, a Korean woman managed to escape the alleged assailants and began screaming for help in the streets, prompting neighbors to alert the police.
While police checked on the residence, the outlet said, they were met at the door by a man wearing a pin bearing a Kim Il Sung/Kim Jong Il badge who said that everything was “normal.”
Shortly after, El Confidencial reported, two cars sped out of the embassy gate and disappeared, however the police officer was able to identify one of the drivers as the man who opened the door.
Additionally, Reuters – citing an unnamed foreign ministry source – also gave credence to the story on Wednesday. “Basically, the information that El Confidencial describes is how the events unfolded,” Reuters quoted the unnamed source as saying.
The DPRK Embassy in Madrid is located in a quiet residential area of the city and was in the spotlight in 2017, when the Spanish government declared then-ambassador Kim Hyok Chol a persona non grata.
Ambassador Kim was recently elevated by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to serve as his top negotiator with the U.S., and has in recent days met with U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun in the lead up to a DPRK-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Depending on how the summit develops, Pacheco said North Korea could regain some of its diplomatic standing in Spain.
“There is a discussion among Spanish policy-makers and experts regarding the possible reopening of the Embassy once the upcoming elections take place,” Pacheco told NK News.
“The current government is opposed, but things could change with a new government, especially if diplomacy continues after tomorrow’s summit.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham