About the Author
Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
A delegation from the North Korean Central Court in Vientiane this week signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Lao People’s Supreme Court, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
The KCNA report said DPRK Central Court President Kang Yun Sok and Lao People’s Supreme Court President Khamphanh Sitthidampha held talks Tuesday “on the issue of developing the exchange and cooperation between judicial organs of the two countries and the issues of common concern.”
After the talks, the report continued, the two signed the MOU to boost “exchange and cooperation in the field of the judiciary.”
Kang’s delegation also held talks in Vientiane Tuesday with General Secretary of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party and President of Laos Bounnhang Vorachith, according to KCNA.
Bounnhang reportedly “expressed the conviction that the bilateral relations would grow stronger,” and said the “traditional friendly and cooperative relations between the two parties, two states and two peoples continue to develop on good terms under the deep care of Kim Jong Un.”
The President also met top North Korean diplomat Ri Su Yong in the Lao capital in late March, who showed his support for “bolstering the bilateral friendship,” the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported at the time.
Separate meetings were held Tuesday between the Central Court delegation and both the Minister of Justice and president of the National Assembly of Laos, KCNA reported.
Following their talks in Laos, Kang and his delegation are expected to hold similar meetings in Vietnam, according to a KCNA report on their departure from Pyongyang on May 4.
Kang, who sits on the Supreme People’s Assembly’s (SPA) Legislation Committee, is one of North Korea’s top lawyers and legal officials.
He has in that capacity overseen several of the DPRK’s most high-profile criminal cases, including the 2017 sentencing of American tourist Otto Warmbier.
The Central Court judge also has extensive experience in legal exchanges between North Korea and the outside world, having last year met in the DPRK capital with Vyacheslav Lebedev, the head of Russia’s Supreme Court, for talks on several topics of mutual interest.
Meanwhile, a delegation from the Lao Veterans Federation traveled to Pyongyang this week to tour various spots and hold talks with the Korean Committee of Veterans against Imperialism as well as Army General No Kwang Chol.
The North Korean foreign ministry this week also reported on an April 29 meeting in Vientiane between DPRK Ambassador Ri Yong Chol and Sirisamphanh Vorachith, Director General of the Department of Planning and Cooperation under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
There, the ambassador reportedly “introduced the reality of the DPRK and its people’s struggle.”
The foreign ministry read-out made no mention of any agreements, however, merely saying Sirisamphanh complemented the DPRK as “a country with strong self-supporting economic foundations and enormous potentials for economic development.”
On April 25, too, Ambassador Ri met the Lao Deputy Minister of Education and Sports to discuss “developing and expanding bilateral exchanges and cooperation in the area of education on basis of the good tradition of relations between the two countries,” the ministry added.
The flurry of DPRK-Laos meetings come as North Korea has retreated from some diplomatic contact with the West following the Hanoi summit.
It also comes as Pyongyang, according to the Mainichi Shimbun’s reporting on a leaked DPRK economic development strategy for the years 2016 through 2020, looks to break from their “exclusive devotion to China and [expand] trade to Russia and other countries in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: People’s Supreme Court President Khamphanh Sitthidampha | Photo: Lao People’s Supreme Court