Alejandro Cao de Benós
Alejandro Cao de Benós de Les y Pérez
Alejandro Cao de Benós in Pyongyang in 2012
|President of the Korean Friendship Association|
|Assumed office |
August 8, 2000
|Preceded by||Position created|
|Born||24 December 1974|
Reus, Catalonia, Spain
|Political party||Workers' Party of Korea|
|Alejandro Cao de Benós|
|Revised Romanization||Jo Seon Il|
Alejandro Cao de Benós de Les y Pérez (born 1974) is a Spanish-North Korean 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 Cao de Benós – there is doubt about its claim to be the "official web page of DPR of Korea" and thus Cao de Benós's claims of his actual status in North Korea'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 a legal name as he travels using his Spanish passport. He has lived in Tarragona and Barcelona (Spain), working as an IT consultant.
Cao de Benós comes from a Spanish noble family. His paternal ancestors were the barons of Les, marquesses of Rosalmonte and counts of Arjelejo, Grandees belonging to the highest-ranking members of the Spanish nobility, who were linked for centuries to the Spanish Army and Navy. Many of them were defenders of Carlism and Francoism. Although Cao de Benós's grandfather was born rich, he lost his inheritance and ended up working as a guard for Repsol-Butano.
Korean Friendship Association activities
Cao de Benós founded the Korean Friendship Association in 2000, purchasing and establishing his privately owned domain name which whilst claiming to be officially sanctioned is 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.
When asked about Kim Jong-un in 2009 he answered that he never heard of him and told that the story about Kim Jong-un being the heir of Kim Jong-il is made up by South Korean intelligence.
Cao de Benós has regularly visited 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 de Benós 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 de Benós 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 de Benós is featured in the documentaries Friends of Kim and The Propaganda Game.
In July 2016, Cao de Benós founded a bar called Pyongyang Cafe in Tarragona, which is decorated with North Korean propaganda posters and features regular talks on subjects such as tourism. The café closed to the public in March 2017 and became a members-only establishment for KFA members.
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, Cao de Benós 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.
Whilst he is authorized to "promote and develop cultural relations," Cao de Benós has been criticized for presenting himself as a North Korean government employee and KFA as an official North Korean entity, neither of which are true.
Cao de Benós has been criticized for charging over twice as much as similar tour organizers to bring filmmakers, 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 de Benós 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. Archived from the original on 6 May 2016. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
- Skåtun, Ole Jakob (15 January 2015). "Capitalist credentials: N. Korea sympathizer group's huge profit on access to country". NK News. Archived from the original on 2016-01-24.
- "WHOIS query results for korea-dpr.com". ICANN. Archived from the original on 2016-08-04. Retrieved 2016-01-14.
- Hume, Tim (21 January 2012). "His dear leader: Meet North Korea's secret weapon - an IT consultant from Spain". The Independent. Archived from the original on 10 May 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
- Olmo, José María; Ballesteros, Roberto R. (14 June 2016). "Cao de Benós, voz en España de Corea del Norte, implicado en tráfico de armas". El Confidencial (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2016-06-17.
- Jones, Jessica (14 June 2016). "Spaniard working for North Korea held for arms trafficking". The Local (es). Archived from the original on 2017-04-16. Retrieved 2017-04-15.
- Villarino, Ángel (2011). "Un aristócrata español en la corte de Kim Jong Il". LaRazón.es. Archived from the original on 2017-04-19.
- The Official Webpage of The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Archived 2009-10-16 at the Wayback Machine
- Visnovitz Péter (2009-06-05). "A taktikus herceg építheti tovább Kim művét". Retrieved 2016-03-06.
- "Pyongyang Cafe, a Kim Jong-Un ally on the Spanish coast". Archived from the original on 2016-08-10.
- "Only place in the West dedicated to North Korea closes in Tarragona (in Spanish)". 2017-03-07.
- This incident and Alejandro's acknowledgement of responsibility can be seen in the "Friends of Kim" Archived 2013-09-04 at the Wayback Machine documentary
- Korea Joongang Daily, ed. (April 17, 2005). "For love of Dear Leader: Spaniard's mission is to show North to world". Archived from the original on 11 July 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
- "prominent-pro-north-korea-figure-denounces-kfa-president-alejandro-cao-de-benos". Archived from the original on 2016-02-03.
- Cao de Benós, Alejandro (2009). Korea — The Songun Citadel (PDF). Bangkok: Papaermate.