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NK Leader`s `Financier` to Leave Switzerland: Source

Posted March. 11, 2010 09:40,   


A key aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il who is known as Kim’s financier will reportedly leave Switzerland this month after 30 years of diplomatic service.

Ri Chol, 75, is North Korea’s ambassador to Geneva.

Diplomatic sources in Switzerland yesterday said rumors are spreading in the diplomatic corps that Ri will be replaced. Watchers have presented a flurry of analyses on the motive of Ri’s return to Pyongyang.

One source said, “Many countries have shown keen interest in Ri’s departure since he is the longest serving foreign diplomat stationed in Switzerland,” adding, “It is uncertain whether he’ll leave in several weeks or in one or two months.”

Ri started his diplomatic service in Geneva as a diplomatic minister at North Korea’s mission in the Swiss city in 1980. He has been standing ambassador of the mission to the United Nations Geneva office since 1987, when Pyongyang was not a member of the world body. Since 1998, he has also served as North Korean ambassador to Switzerland.

Ri is known as the manager of Kim’s slush funds and one of the leader’s most trusted confidants because Kim’s three sons -- Jong Nam (39), Jong Chol (29), and Jong Un (27), -- all attended school in Switzerland.

Since 1991, Ri has also reportedly played a key role in inviting French doctors to Pyongyang for treatment of top North Korean leaders, including the late leader Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

When media reports quoted U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill as saying in April 2006 North Korea keeps four billion U.S. dollars in a secret Swiss bank account, Ri issued a statement blasting Hill, saying, “The statement is typical U.S. slander meant to damage the image of our republic.”

Experts are mixed over why Ri is being replaced. Many blame his advanced age but others say it could be related to North Korea’s power succession from Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un.