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Sunday, February 18, 2007

North Korean diplomatic couriers fight with Finnish police

Two North Korean diplomats carrying post from Russia to Sweden via Finland were taken into custody by the Finnish police in Kouvola on Tuesday after they refused to show their train tickets and to comply to customs inspection. After refusing to show their tickets to the train inspector, they used violence to fend off the custom officials, and they fought also against the police who were called into the scene. They had diplomatic passports, but they were not accredited in Finland.
The daily Iltasanomat reported today (no link, this is Finland) that police had had to spray gas into the train compartment to subdue the two men. They were taken to the police station in Kouvola. It took a few hours for the Finnish foreign ministry to find out that they were in fact diplomats carrying diplomatic post, especially as staff from the North Korean embassy in Stockholm had come to Helsinki to meet the men, so police was instructed to treat them as diplomats, and in the end the couriers were escorted to the first available train from Kouvola to Helsinki. Kouvola police is investigating the case as "violent obstruction of authorities" or whatever the term might be in English, but as is quite obvious, the investigation is not expected to progress well.

Well, this is of course embarrassing for the tiny number of Koreans living here, especially as the major daily newspaper referred to the fighting diplomats mainly as "Koreans" and not as "North Koreans," but perhaps we can see some sprouts of unification in the men's attitude towards police, as it is quite similar to that shown by some of their Southern brethren when making their views and opinions known.

Update, Feb 20, 2007.
Two reports are available in English:
• YLE broadcasting corporation: North Korean Diplomats in Scuffle with Finnish Officials on Train
• Helsingin Sanomat daily: North Korean diplomatic couriers removed from train after scuffle

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Comments to note "North Korean diplomatic couriers fight with Finnish police" (Comments to posts older than 14 days are moderated)

<Anonymous Richardson> said on 18.2.07 : 

Do you have a link/source for that? I'd like to include it in my onging 'NK in the News' posts (w/tip to you, of course).

<Blogger Antti Leppänen> said on 18.2.07 : 

I was citing Finnish-language print versions of Helsingin Sanomat and Ilta-Sanomat, but the public broadcasting company YLE has this one in English:
North Korean Diplomats in Scuffle with Finnish Officials on Train
Published 16.02.2007, 17.36 (updated 16.02.2007, 21.26)
A scuffle took place on Tuesday on a train en route from Moscow to Helsinki between North Korean diplomats and Finnish officials. The altercation took place at Kouvola station.
The diplomats barricaded themselves into a cabin on the train, refusing to allow a conductor inside to inspect tickets, or customs officials to inspect the cabin.

The men had diplomatic passports of the Democratic Republic of Korea, which are not valid for Finland.

The train conductor summoned the police onto the train. Kouvola police said that the two also resisted the police seeking to enter the cabin. The police had to use force to calm the situation.

The men were finally taken to the Kouvola police station to clear up the matter. After a few hours, the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs granted the men temporary diplomatic immunity, even though their documents were inadequate.

The men, who were carrying diplomatic mail to Stockholm, were later escorted onto another train to Helsinki.


<Blogger usinkorea> said on 20.2.07 : 

I am taking it from what you showed us that the bags and diplomatic pouch and such were not searched, correct?

I was wondering, because NK diplomats have been caught smuggling drugs before. I thought maybe that is why they put up such a fight...

<Blogger Antti Leppänen> said on 20.2.07 : 

Yes, there was nothing about searching the bags, so I'll take that as diplomatic post they were not searched .

You are left wondering what aroused such violence; hot stuff in the mailbags and the knowledge of the attitudes about one's country...? And seeing such news, you're reminded of what knowledgeable people like Myers and Lankov have written about the tendency of spontaneous violence among North Koreans.

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