The shadowy underground organization which this week claimed responsibility for a February break-in at the North Korean embassy in Madrid on Thursday said it would “temporarily” suspend all pending activities.
In a statement in Korean posted on the group’s official website, Cheollima Civil Defense said that criticism from the international press had left its membership with no choice but to call off activity for the time being.
“Multiple actions targeting the North Korean regime were being prepared, but because of speculative attack articles in the media, the activities of action groups have been temporarily suspended,” the group said.
The statement comes just over 24 hours after the group formally claimed responsibility for a break-in at the North Korean embassy in Madrid last month.
That admission followed the Spanish authorities’ decision to name the 10 suspects in their ongoing investigation into the case, in a statement which accused U.S.-based human rights activist Adrian Hong of having led the group.
Subsequent investigation by NK News and other outlets revealed that Hong had served as head of the Joseon Institute, an organization preparing for “increasingly imminent, dramatic change” in North Korea.
“It is Adrian (who is) behind this whole Cheollima Civil Defense,” one source said, corroborating what two others had told NK News.
Further reporting was also able to back claims by Spanish authorities that the group which had orchestrated the embassy break-in had used violence against DPRK diplomats and that two members had made contact with U.S. intelligence before the incident took place.
A Spanish judge has now reportedly issued international warrants for the arrest of two of the suspects.
Thursday’s statement saw the group blame international media for their decision to suspend operations — echoing similar comments made earlier in the week urging journalists not to “out” its membership.
“We ask the media to restrain itself in its interest in our organization and its members,” it said. “We have bigger tasks ahead.”
Thursday also saw Cheollima stress that it is predominantly run by North Korean escapees with “the help of Free Joseon and Korean expatriates from around the world,” while stressing they had not recently made contact with other defectors.
“We are an international organization united by the idea of ending the Kim dynasty’s succession,” the statement said.
“Due to strict security, we have not made any attempt to make connections with or even telephone any North Korean refugee residing in South Korea recently.”
The Cheollima Civil Defense organization first emerged in March 2017 following the death of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother Kim Jong Nam.
Their first public appearance came in a video featuring Kim Jong Nam’s son Kim Han Sol, with an accompanying statement saying that they were protecting Kim and his family.
March 1 this year, however, saw the group break an almost two-year silence with a statement declaring the establishment of the “Free Joseon” government in exile.
It has since then released a series of public statements, with one appearing to claim responsibility for a recent incident in which the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur was vandalized and another hoping to raise money through selling “G-Visas” to visit a future “free Joseon.”
Thursday’s statement, however, suggests those activities will be suspended for the time being, though it also saw the group pledge to continue direct action against the North Korean state.
“We will overthrow the Kim Jong Un regime through action together with our comrades inside North Korea,” it said.