By Jung Da-min
|Adrian Hong. Korea Times file|
Spain's National High Court has found that Adrian Hong led the assailant group of ten members also including a U.S. national Sam Ryu and a South Korean citizen Woo Ran Lee.
Hong was a co-founder of the California-based Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), an international non-governmental organization founded at Yale University in 2004 to rescue North Korean refugees.
He once wrote a column titled "Peace for Our Time" for The Korea Times as a contributing writer in 2007. In the column, he shared his critical views about the then South Korean liberal government's indifference to the human rights situation in the North.
In December 2006, he was arrested and deported from China together with two LiNK employees and six North Korean refugees for assisting defectors.
But the LiNK has distanced itself from Hong, saying he hasn't been engaged in LiNK activities for more than 10 years, though he co-founded the organization in his university days.
"We do not have any knowledge about Hong's recent activity nor any other information about the raid at North Korea's embassy in Spain," said Sokeel Park, a LiNK member.
In 2009, Hong was an inaugural fellow at the TED organization and presented himself as managing director of Pegasus Strategies, a strategic advisory firm serving for non-profit and profit ventures.
He was also a TED Senior Fellow from 2010 to 2012.
His TED resume from then said he was a visiting lecturer in 2008 at South Korea's Ewha Woman's University in Seoul, teaching "America, Human Rights and Foreign Policy".
In 2015, Hong founded the Joseon Institute, which presented itself as "an independent, non-profit and non-partisan think tank conducting policy-relevant research and planning in recognition of increasingly imminent, dramatic change in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)."
But it seems that Hong is not currently leading the organization based on information from the group's website which stated the leadership is "to be announced."
The website, which appears to have been dormant since 2017, described the group's mission as to "prepare actionable blueprints on how to manage a transition and prepare for a brighter future in a new North Korea."
Its statements of mission bear similarities with those of Free Joseon, the group which claimed responsibility for the raid at North Korea's embassy in Spain in its Tuesday statement.
On March 1, Free Joseon, formerly known as Cheollima Civil Defense, has declared itself as "a provisional government preparing the foundations for a future nation built upon respect for principles of human rights and humanitarianism," saying tens of millions of their fellow Koreans remain enslaved by a depraved power.
With the name "Cheollima" referring to a mythical winged horse portrayed in East Asian mythologies, a direct parallel to Pegasus of Greek mythology, questions have been raised around the group's possible ties to Hong, who also headed the advisory firm named Pegasus Strategies.
Meanwhile, Free Joseon said in its latest statement in Korean on Thursday that it has decided to suspend its activities targeted to "shake" the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his regime.
The group claimed it is exposed to danger due to speculative reports by media.