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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
The central prosecutors’ offices of North Korea and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreeing to boost cooperation in Beijing on Tuesday, according to an SPP official report.
The agreement was signed by Director Kim Myong Gil of North Korea’s Central Public Prosecutors Office (CPPO) and procurator-general Zhang Jun of China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP), the report said.
A delegation led by Kim was reported in North Korean state media to have left Pyongyang earlier that same day.
With the agreement, Zhang was reported to have expressed “hope that the prosecutorial organs of the two countries will further enhance friendship, strengthen cooperation, support each other, [and] implement the consensus of the top leaders of the two countries.”
The SPP report described a meeting the two sides held prior to the signing, in which Zhang emphasized judicial reforms and changes in Chinese society and law enforcement.
Zhang “briefed the guests on China’s economic and social development, judicial reform, and procuratorial work,” it said.
He reportedly presented on the structural reforms of the organization, and “vigorously promoted … the ‘four procuratorial organs’ in criminal, civil, administrative, and public interest litigation.”
Zhang also stressed that efforts have been made to “make the people feel fairness and justice in every judicial case,” adding it is part of his organization’s “guiding ideology of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era of Xi Jinping.”
In turn, Kim reportedly introduced the functions and work of the CPPO and related organs in North Korea.
Kim said he “would further promote pragmatic cooperation between judicial and prosecutorial organs of the two countries,” according to the SPP report.
The two sides may have also discussed legal issues pertaining to North Korean defectors and workers in China, said Minyoung Lee, analyst with NK News‘s sister site NK Pro.
The last time the two sides signed a similar MOU on cooperation was in October 2013, also in Beijing.
The SPP report on that meeting said deputy procurator-general Hu Zejun emphasized anti-corruption efforts and the office’s structural reforms, but did not include comments from the North Korean representative, then-first vice director Ri Chol.
The CPPO has signed agreements with prosecutorial bodies of other countries in recent years as well, most recently during a trip to Cuba also led by Kim Myong Gil in March 2018.
Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) also reported on prosecutors’ office delegations sent to Vietnam in November 2015 and Russia in June that year, as well as its meetings in Pyongyang with an EU European External Action Service delegation that same month.
The body’s official name was changed from the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office (SPPO) to the Central Public Prosecutors’ Office in 2016.
Prior to North Korea’s warming relations with South Korea and the U.S. in early 2018, the office was known to regularly issue prosecutorial decisions against individuals in those two countries.
The office in June 2017 sentenced to death former South Korean President Park Geun-hye and former director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) Lee Byung-ho for allegedly ordering the assassination of Kim Jong Un.
It also later announced an investigation into former DPRK deputy ambassador to the UK Thae Yong-ho just days after his defection to South Korea in August 2016, calling him “human scum bereft of elementary sense of moral obligation and conscience.”
A page uploaded to state-managed website Naenara in 2017 describes the current CPPO as the “highest state organ of investigation and prosecution” in the country.
Its current director, Kim Myong Gil, was reappointed to his post in the most recent Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) session in April this year, having been first appointed in a SPA session in April 2017.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate