The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) detained North Korean businessman Mun Chol-myong captured in Malaysia and extradited to the U.S. for violating North Korea sanctions. As the Biden administration will soon release the review results of the country’s North Korea policies, how the case of Mun will be handled in the U.S. will serve as another critical point for future relations between the U.S. and the North.
According to the Associated Press on Sunday (local time), Mun who is currently under money laundering charges was extradited from Malaysia in accordance with the Malaysia Supreme Court’s decision and taken into the custody of the FBI on Saturday. Mun is the first case of a North Korean citizen extradited to the U.S. for trials.
His lawyer says Mun worries he won’t get a fair trial in the U.S. They argue that the extradition is politically motivated and aimed to increase pressure on North Korea over the nation’s missile program. He is denying all charges against him. The Justice Department declined to comment, the Associated Press reported.
Mun who has lived in Malaysia for about 10 years is accused of supplying prohibited luxury goods, such as alcohol and watches, from Singapore to North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions and laundered money through a paper company. A federal judge in Washington had issued a warrant for Mun’s arrest in May 2019 on money laundering, and the FBI requested the Malaysian government to extradite Mun to the U.S. After Mun’s arrest, he refused extradition to the U.S. and had continued a legal battle for almost two years. The Supreme Court of Malaysia made a final decision for extradition at the beginning of this month.
North Korea is expected to strongly oppose Mun’s detention and trials in the US. The North announced on Friday to cut off relations with the Malaysian government for his extradition and warned the U.S. by saying that the US, the puppet master and the main culprit, will pay the price. All North Korean diplomats at the North Korean Embassy in Malaysia and their families left the country when the Malaysian government ordered them to leave within 48 hours after the North’s announcement to sever relations.
Given the agitated response by the North, Mun’s trials and judgment are likely to bring more challenges to the U.S.-North Korea negotiations. The North seems to be especially sensitive as the charges against Mun are related to North Korea sanctions and the precedence of the extradition of a North Korean citizen to the U.S. from Southeast Asia can apply to a series of cases in the future.