Alejandro Cao de Benós de Les y Pérez
|Alejandro Cao de Benós de Les y Pérez
|President of the Korean Friendship Association|
August 8, 2000
Reus, Catalonia, Spain
|Alejandro Cao de Benós de Les y Pérez|
|Revised Romanization||Jo Seon Il|
Alejandro Cao de Benós de Les y Pérez (born 1974) is Spanish political activist with close relations with North Korea. He is a Special Representative of the Foreign Ministry of North Korea. He is, according to himself, also the Special Delegate of North Korea's Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries.
He is also the founder, president, and only salaried member of the Korean Friendship Association (KFA). All official government and ministerial sites of North Korea have the .kp domain and given the whois record for KFA´s website points towards it being the personally owned domain of Alejandro Cao de Benos there is doubt about its claim to be the "official web page of DPR of Korea " and thus Cao's claims of his actual status in DPRK´s hierarchy.
He has been an advocate of North Korea since 1990. His Korean name, Cho Son-il ("Korea is One"), is self given but not considered legal as he travels using his Spanish passport. He has lived in Tarragona and Barcelona (Spain), working as an IT consultant.
On 14 June 2016 he was arrested by the Spanish Guardia Civil in Tarragona for arms trafficking. In his initial hearing he claimed his right not to answer questions . He has been prevented from leaving Spain by Judicial order and must report to the court every 15 days.
Korean Friendship Association activities
Cao founded the Korean Friendship Association in 2000, purchasing and establishing his privately owned domain name which whilst claiming to be officially sanctioned is in fact privately owned and registered in his name. It includes a media section and a web-shop where badges, North Korean music and other items can be bought online. Goods purchased are sent from Spain.
Cao travels regularly to Pyongyang, assisting with press pass application and acting as a translator for the foreign press (constantly under supervision of local authorities) and helping to schedule business meetings. Cao acts for a commission as an intermediary in such meetings and in line with having no official paid employment is not paid any base salary. He has written numerous articles on matters relating to the political situation in the Korean Peninsula, dissemination of state propaganda as well as giving press interviews. Cao is one of the few foreigners to claim to follow the North Korean party line; he continues as president of his company the Korean Friendship Association. Cao is featured in the documentaries Friends of Kim and The Propaganda Game.
Cao de Benós has also received widespread criticism from the Western press for, among other things, trying to restrict the freedom of expression of journalists from outside countries. He has expelled members of the "Association of Friendship with Korea" for "disrespect". He has also been accused of threatening and intimidating journalists critical of North Korea. When Andrew Morse of ABC News visited the country in 2004, invited by the Association, he was accused of using sensationalist language to describe Kochang farm cooperatives. Once in Pyongyang, Alejandro Cao broke into and searched through Morse's hotel room, confiscated his tapes, damaged his laptop and forced him to sign an apologetic letter in order to leave the country. Cao de Benós has also tried to disrupt the work of other NGOs operating in North Korea by complaining about their work or their portrayal of problems in the country. His arrest on arms trafficking charges raised questions about his true business operations with North Korea but he denies any arms he had on his person were destined for export to North Korea.
Whilst he is authorized to "promote and develop cultural relations," Cao de Benós has been criticized for representing himself as a North Korean government employee and KFA as an official North Korean entity, neither of which are true.
Cao has been criticized for charging over twice as much as similar tour organizers to bring film-makers, artists and tourists to the country. In exchange for these higher prices, he promises exclusive access, although the attractions on his itinerary are comparable to those on any other tour. Furthermore, Cao has historically failed to secure permits and permissions for even standard, relatively highly-accessible attractions.
- James, Alexander (29 January 2012). "'Useful Idiots'? The curious case of Britain's pro-North Korean Community". NK News. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
- "Investigation By South Korean Media of Alajandro Cao de Benos".
- "| ICANN WHOIS". whois.icann.org. Retrieved 2016-01-14.
- "His dear leader: Meet North Korea's secret weapon - an IT consultant from Spain". The Independent. 21 January 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
- Cao de Benós, voz en España de Corea del Norte, implicado en tráfico de armas, El Confidencial, 14 June 2016 (in Spanish).
- The Official Webpage of The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)
- This incident and Alejandro's acknowledgement of responsibility can be seen in the "Friends of Kim" documentary
- Korea Joongang Daily, ed. (April 17, 2005). "For love of Dear Leader: Spaniard’s mission is to show North to world". Retrieved 15 September 2015.
- Cao de Benós, Alejandro (2009). Korea — The Songun Citadel (PDF). Bangkok: Papaermate.