By Elaine Ganley
PARIS (AP) — A North Korean student with family ties to the regime in his country escaped a kidnapping bid in Paris, where he was studying, and is now in hiding, a French source with knowledge of the case said Saturday.
The architecture student, identified only as Han, avoided the kidnapping attempt at a Paris airport where he was to be put on a plane for Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly on the sensitive matter.
The failed bid to capture Han occurred in the first week of November, and he has been in hiding since then, the source said. It wasn’t immediately clear if French authorities had played a role in the escape, how many kidnappers were involved, or where they are now.
Han is reportedly the son of an aide of the once powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The uncle, Jang Song Thaek, was considered the country’s second most powerful man before he was executed in December on treason charges.
South Korea’s spy agency believes North Korea also used a firing squad to execute several people close to the uncle, South Korean lawmaker Shin Kyung-min said in October after attending a closed-door agency briefing.
Han has been attending L’Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Architecture de Paris at La Villette, in eastern Paris. He was presumably among about 10 North Korean architecture students who came to France in 2012 in a second wave of a student exchange.
France and Estonia are the only two European countries that have not established formal diplomatic relations with North Korea. However, France and North Korea have opened offices of cooperation in each other’s countries to deal mainly with cultural and humanitarian issues, and France accepts a limited number of North Korean students and interns. (end)