Wed, Nov 28, 2018 - Page 6 News List

French Senate employee arrested for espionage

‘PYONGYANG PAWN’:Benoit Quennedey, who has written frequent articles about North Korea, is suspected of passing secrets to the regime

AFP, PARIS

An undated photograph provided yesterday by the Delga publishing house shows French Senate employee Benoit Quennedey.

Photo: AP

Intelligence agencies have arrested a senior French civil servant who worked at the French Senate on suspicion of passing confidential information to the dictatorial regime of North Korea, a judicial source said.

Benoit Quennedey, who is also the president of the Franco-Korean Friendship Association and has written a book on the isolated nation, was taken into custody late on Monday, the source in Paris said.

After an inquiry that began in March, prosecutors suspect him of the “collection and delivery of information to a foreign power likely to undermine the fundamental interests of the nation,” the source said.

Quennedey is being held at the headquarters of the French Directorate-General for Internal Security outside Paris.

The French news and talk show Le Quotidien, which first reported the story, said he was arrested at his home and his Senate office had been searched.

According to the Senate Web site, Quennedey is a senior administrator in the French upper house of parliament in the department of architecture, heritage and gardens, in charge of administration and finances.

The office of Senate President Gerard Larcher declined to comment.

Quennedey has written frequent articles on North Korea and traveled extensively throughout the peninsula since 2005, according to the Web site of his publisher, Delga.

Last year, Delga published Quennedey’s latest work, North Korea, The Unknown.

The Franco-Korean Friendship Association, formed in the late 1960s by journalists sympathetic to socialist and communist causes, pushes for closer ties with Pyongyang and supports the reunification of the divided Koreas.

Quennedey attended France’s elite Sciences Po university as well as the ENA school, which produces its top civil servants and political leaders.

In 2013, he wrote North Korea’s Economy: Birth of a New Asian Dragon? despite years of strict international sanctions aimed at forcing the country to abandon its nuclear missile program.

In regular interviews with RT France, part of Moscow’s Russia Today network, Quennedey is presented as an “expert in international relations” and comments on Korean relations and other subjects.

North Korea has been a pariah of the international community for decades over its refusal to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Sanctions have crippled its economy and the UN estimates that about 10.3 million people, or 41 percent of North Korea’s population, are undernourished — even as neighboring South Korea’s economy flourishes.

However, hopes of a breakthrough were sparked last June when US President Donald Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for a historic summit meeting in Singapore, but progress since then has been patchy and Washington is still pushing to maintain sanctions until Pyongyang’s “final, fully verified denuclearization.”

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