North Korean student feared kidnapped in Paris

Paris prosecutors are investigating the disappearance of a North Korean student linked to political rivals of dictator Kim Jong-un, a judicial source said Friday.

North Korean student feared kidnapped in Paris
Paris prosecutors are investigating the disappearance of a North Korean student linked to political rivals of leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: AFP

There are fears the student, identified only as Han, may have been forcibly taken back to North Korea to be executed.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency cited an unnamed source on Wednesday claiming Han was picked up by North Korean agents in Paris, but had dramatically escaped while being taken to the airport.

But he has not been seen since, and his escape could not be confirmed.

Han is the son of an aide to Jang Song-thaek, Kim's uncle who once considered the number two in the regime but who was executed in December on treason charges.

Han's father is also known to have been purged recently, Yonhap reported, as part of the Kim regime's continued work to clear the remnants of the Jang era.

"I asked other students and faculty members about Han's whereabouts but nobody has seen him at least 15 days," a senior official at Han's school told Yonhap.

Han and nine other North Koreans have been studying at a prestigious architecture college in Paris since 2011 after being offered places by the French government.

Le Parisien newspaper reported on Friday that the other nine had also disappeared at the same time as Han, but had since reappeared.

Le Parisien reported that France has discreetly been allowing North Korean students to come to France to study architecture since 2002.

A teacher at the school told Le Parisien that North Korean students were closely watched.

"There was often a suited Asian man who came to classes," said the teacher, who was not named.

"One time, a representative of the North Korean delegation in Paris wanted to resit the exams in the place of a student who had failed the year."

That student was "never seen again," the teacher added.

Last year The Local reported how Kim Jong-un's nephew, who was also studying in France, had been placed under guard over fears the regime would target him.

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North Koreans snubbed by French cheese college

A bid by North Korea to send experts to a prestigious French cheese-making training school, seemingly at the behest of its fromage-loving leader King Jong-un, has been rejected. It did not fit with the institution's "priorities or strategy", it seems.

North Koreans snubbed by French cheese college
Kim Jong-un's bid to send two North Koreans to learn how to make French cheese has been refused by a prestigious French college. Photos: Zennie62/Amandabhslater/Flickr

There was bad news for cheese lovers in North Korea this week, including Kim Jong-un  – a supposed Emmental aficionado, when a French college refused to take on three experts from the People’s Republic.

Two officials from North Korea visited the National Dairy Industry College (ENIL), based in Mamirolle, Franche-Comté last month in the hope of sending experts to the college to receive specialist instruction in the the art of making French fromage.

French social media went into meltdown on Tuesday when it was reported that the school had accepted North Korea's bid to promote "cheese diplomacy".

But on Tuesday the director of ENIL Véronique Drouet moved quickly to deny the deal, telling AFP that it simply wasn’t feasible to train the Koreans and their request had been politely but firmly declined.

“I think they thought they had found a school that would suit them and they thought there would be no question the partnership would work,” said Drouet.

But “there is no basis to go further with North Korea because such a partnership does not fit into our priorities and strategy,” she added.

Drouet said ENIL, which trains 600 students in cheese production, does have several international partnerships but they are mostly in relation to links already set up via the regional authorities of Franche-Comté.   

“We don’t have a vocation to train foreign students, we are a little school on a human scale. We can’t just expand to all four corners of the world. We have to prioritize our existing partners,” she said.

“I didn’t see the interest in it because it seemed difficult to me to send my students to do an internship in North Korea,” she added. “But it’s always good to know that we are well known,” she joked.

The snub will be a disappointment to North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un, who is believed to have become a huge fan of Switzerland’s Emmental cheese, a taste that was developed during the time that he studied there.

Some high-profile North Koreaens have been allowed to study in France. In December last year The Local reported how Kim Jong-un's nephew Kim Han-sol, who is doing a degree at the renowned Sciences Po university, had to be placed under police guard after his uncle and several of his allies were executed.

SEE ALSO: Kim Jong-un's nephew 'under police guard' in France