Mar 22, 2021 - World

North Korean national extradited to U.S. for first time ever

Police officers outside North Korea embassy in Malaysia

Police officers stand guard in front of the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur after diplomatic relations between North Korea and Malaysia were officially severed. Photo: Syaiful Redzuan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A North Korean national appeared in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Monday after his extradition from Malaysia, where he was arrested in 2019 on U.S. charges of money laundering, according to the Justice Department.

Why it matters: It's the first time ever that a North Korean national has been successfully extradited to the U.S.

  • North Korea severed diplomatic ties with Malaysia last week over the extradition of 55-year-old Mun Chol Myong, who was indicted in 2019 for allegedly defrauding U.S. banks and violating UN sanctions by supplying luxury goods to North Korea.
  • Relations between Malaysia and North Korea have been deteriorating since 2017 when North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un's half-brother was assassinated with a nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

The big picture: U.S. sanctions against North Korea are designed to cut Kim's regime off from the global financial system and slow the development of its nuclear weapons program. Money laundering can make the penalties difficult to enforce.

What they're saying: “One of the FBI’s biggest counterintelligence challenges is bringing overseas defendants to justice, especially in the case of North Korea,” FBI counterintelligence official Alan Kohler Jr. said in a statement. "Thanks to the FBI’s partnership with foreign authorities, we’re proud to bring Mun Chol Myong to the United States to face justice, and we hope he will be the first of many."

Go deeper: North Korea's Kim Yo-jong warns U.S. against "causing a stink"

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