Alejandro Cao de Benós de Les y Pérez

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This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Cao de Bénos and the second or maternal family name is de Les y Pérez.
Alejandro Cao de Bénos de Les y Pérez
Alejandro Cao de Benós de Les y Pérez in Pyongyang in 2012.JPG
Picture of Alejandro Cao taken in front of the Yanggakdo International Hotel in Pyongyang, June 2012.
President of the Korean Friendship Association
Assumed office
8 August 2000
Preceded by Position established
Personal details
Born 1974
Reus, Catalonia, Spain
Political party Workers' Party of Korea
Military service
Allegiance  North Korea
Service/branch Spanish Army
Korean People's Army
Rank Alférez
Alejandro Cao de Benós de Les y Pérez
Chosŏn'gŭl 조선일
Hancha 朝鮮一
Revised Romanization Jo Seon Il
McCune–Reischauer Cho Sŏn-il

Alejandro Cao de Benós de Les y Pérez (born 1974) is a Spanish Special Delegate of North Korea's Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries and president of the Korean Friendship Association (KFA).

He has been an advocate of North Korea since 1990. His activities are occasionally mentioned in bulletins from the Korean Central News Agency. His Korean name, Cho Son-il ("Korea is One"), is officially recognized by North Korea. He has lived in Tarragona and Barcelona (Spain), working as an IT consultant.[1] A single, unnamed detractor called him a "'perfect example of the useful idiot.'"[1]

Official activities in North Korea[edit]

Cao founded the Korean Friendship Association in 2000, setting up an officially approved North Korea website.[2] It includes a media section and a web-shop where badges, North Korean music and other items can be bought online.

In 2002, Cao became the first foreigner allowed to work on behalf of the North Korean authorities in an official capacity, thus fulfilling a dream he had had since he was a teenager. This required that North Korean law had to be changed. He was given a North Korean passport. His official assignment is as a "special representative" of the Foreign Ministry.[3]

Cao travels regularly to Pyongyang, organizing international delegations for the foreign press (constantly under supervision), cultural exchanges and business meetings, which entail working with North Korean officials in many ministries in both cultural and diplomatic affairs. He has written numerous articles on matters relating to the political situation in the Korean Peninsula, as well as giving interviews for television, newspapers, radio and Internet press. As one of the few foreigners to devoutly follow the North Korean party line, he continues to be greatly involved with the Korean Friendship Association as well as with North Korean international relations. Cao is prominently featured in the documentary Friends of Kim.

Positions and awards[edit]

According to the KFA, Cao has received several North Korean awards, including the North Korean Friendship Medal from the North Korean Supreme People's Assembly, diplomas from the Central Committee of Radio and Television of the DPRK and the Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, and a personal gift from Kim Jong-il.[4]


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".[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] 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 North Korea.


  1. ^ a b "His dear leader: Meet North Korea's secret weapon - an IT consultant from Spain". The Independent. 21 January 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2015. 
  2. ^ The Official Webpage of The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)
  3. ^ Villarino, Ángel (April 24, 2010). "Un aristócrata en la corte de Kim Jong II". La Razón (in Spanish) (Madrid, Spain). Archived from the original on 2010-09-27. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  4. ^[dead link]
  5. ^ This incident and Alejandro's acknowledgement of responsibility can be seen in the "Friends of Kim" documentary (English)
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ This incident and Alejandro's acknowledgement of responsibility can be seen in the "Friends of Kim" documentary (English)

External links[edit]

Interviews and conferences