- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 30, 2019

Ignore, if you can, the tweets, the photo-ops, and the declarations of “love.” Sure, President Trump’s wooing of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has been unseemly, debasing even. But it hasn’t amounted to much in the realm of policy.

Sanctions are still in force, tens of thousands of U.S. troops are still in place in South Korea, and the Kim regime remains isolated and impoverished.

All the squawking that Mr. Kim gained “legitimacy” through his Singapore and Hanoi photo-ops with the president — as if the Kim regime can’t produce propaganda victories out of whole cloth — ignored the fact that back at home he is already literally treated like a deity. How much more “legitimacy” could the porcine dauphin gain? Mr. Kim went to Singapore and Vietnam looking for sanctions relief, not just photos he could put on the front page of the next day’s Rodong Sinmun.

There is one big exception to this general and salutary trend, however. The Justice Department is working in concert with North Korea to persecute the leading anti-Kim resistance group. As attorney Lee Wolosky put it, the “DOJ is executing warrants against U.S. nationals being targeted by North Korea, based on criminal complaints from the Kim regime.”

It’s as unbelievable as it sounds.

The DOJ’s actions stem from a brazen February raid on the North Korean embassy in Spain. Little is known definitively of what happened that evening in Madrid — most of the testimony comes from North Korean “diplomats,” a class hardly known for fealty to the truth — but what is clear is that members of a North Korean resistance faction gained entree into the compound. Once inside, they made off with a trove of evidence of North Korea’s crimes, including laptops and thumb-drives. They also filmed themselves smashing portraits of the regime’s leaders — a capital offense in North Korea. They eventually handed over the purloined electronics to the FBI.

The daring caper was the work of the group Free Joseon, invariably described in the U.S. media as “shadowy” (and cast by The Nation magazine as possible CIA operatives). The small band of dissidents, some of them Korean-American, states openly that its goal is to bring down Pyongyang’s barbaric regime. Their actions in Madrid were not their first act of derring-do: Free Joseon has also protected the life of Kim Han-sol, the son of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother whom Kim Jong-un had assassinated in a Malaysian airport in 2017.

In late April, the Justice Department arrested a member of Free Joseon who had allegedly been involved in the Madrid raid. Christopher Ahn, a Korean-American Marine who served in Iraq, is being held without bond and now faces extradition to Spain for the “crime” of working to bring down a regime that is inherently criminal in and of itself.

Meanwhile Adrian Hong, another member of Free Joseon, remains on the lam, being pursued by the U.S. government as some kind of perverse favor to the Kim dictatorship. As Mr. Wolonsky observed, it is hardly “appropriate for the Department of Justice to execute warrants based on North Korean criminal complaints and the highly unreliable accounts of North Korean government witnesses.”

This week, Free Joseon released a statement calling “for the immediate release of Christopher Ahn and for the end to the pursuit of Adrian Hong. Their work on behalf of 25 million enslaved and silent North Korean citizens must continue with the resumption of their freedom.”

The Department of Justice would do well to heed Free Joseon’s call.

⦁ Ethan Epstein is deputy opinion editor of The Washington Times. Contact him at eepstein@washingtontimes.com or on Twitter @ethanepstiiiine.

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