- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 21, 2006

NEW YORK — Diplomats at the United Nations dread the arrival of North Korean Ambassador Pak Gil-yon at the microphone.

Known sarcastically as Dr. Chuckles for his highly-strung manner, he is a master of florid tirades.

“He just comes in and tells us how Pyongyang is defending itself from terrible aggression and then flounces off,” a diplomat said. “We never get anything worthwhile out of him.”

The United States and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations, but Pyongyang has posted officials to New York to represent it at the United Nations.

As negotiations drag on over sanctions after its nuclear test, Mr. Pak has scurried around the corridors of the U.N. building, condemning moves to adopt sanctions, claiming instead that the world should congratulate North Korea’s scientists.

In exchanges notable for their harsh tone, Mr. Pak has threatened more nuclear tests.

Cornered by Korean reporters, he screamed: “Do I have to repeat the same story again and again? We will do everything.”

The ambassador’s performance has done nothing to salvage the already low reputation of North Korean diplomacy.

North Korean embassies, outposts of the ruling Workers’ Party, are notorious as linchpins of lucrative drug-running and money-laundering activities.

In a decade, there have been 50 criminal cases involving North Korean diplomats uncovered by law-enforcement authorities worldwide. Diplomats have been arrested in or thrown out of Egypt, China, Russia, Germany and Bulgaria.

David Asher, a former State Department adviser, said Pyongyang expected its embassies to funnel funds back to the ruling party.

“North Korea is perhaps the only country in the world whose embassies and overseas personnel are expected to contribute income to the party center, not rely on central government funds for their operations,” Mr. Asher said.

Even in the depths of its stiffest challenge, the country’s unending taste for intrigue has been on display.

Until earlier this month, Mr. Pak’s deputy, Han Song-ryol, was the mission’s spokesman. But he has been silenced and recalled to Pyongyang.

In contrast to his ebullient leader, Mr. Han morosely refused to comment.

“I do not have the right to talk because I will soon leave this position,” he said prior to his departure.

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