Hong Yong-il is the North Korean embassy’s new first secretary to India and has been in the country for just a month. He lives on the first floor of a two-storey house in a tree-lined lane in Delhi’s busy Lajpat Nagar. The apartment is huge but nondescript, sparsely furnished; a modest affair as compared with many other diplomatic residences in the Indian capital. Hong wears on his shirt a miniature badge, with the face of Kim Il-sung, the country’s founding father and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un. This is not Hong’s first stint in India. In 1996, he stayed in the country for nine months, studying a course in remote sensing technology at a research centre located in Dehradun, a small town in the foothills of the Himalayas, about 235km from the Indian capital New Delhi.
Hong was, in fact, one of the first students North Korea sent to train at the centre, a school set up in 1995 by the United Nations, to ensure that “in years to come, no country in the region will have to look abroad for expertise in space science & technology application”. READ MORE