Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Japanese Man Hounds Kim Jong-il's Money Around the Globe

Ken Kato’s passion is North Korean human rights and especially exposing the slush funds of the country's leader Kim Jong-il in overseas bank accounts. "I spend more time bringing public attention to the slush funds than I do on my job," says Kato (40), who is in the mail-order business.

Kato has sent thousands of letters and e-mails to foreign governments and lawmakers asking them to investigate Kim's slush funds, which are believed to be stored in a bank in Luxembourg. His efforts began after reading the Jan. 2 issue of the Japanese magazine Aera, which interviewed a former South Korean intelligence official who said Kim transferred slush funds worth US$400 million from a Swiss bank account to another one in Luxembourg.

"According to the UN, more than 9 million North Koreans are starving," Kato said. "They say more than 2 million have already starved to death. Can you believe people are starving to death while there is enough money to build nuclear weapons and to create slush funds?"

Although his e-mails are sent as requests from a private citizen, he has received official pledges from the governments of Australia, Canada, Luxembourg, and U.K. to investigate. In May of last year, Kato sent a letter to the Singaporean government calling for a thorough investigation of North Korean money that had been deposited in a bank there. "Since then, the North Korean capital was moved from Singapore to Hong Kong," he says. "North Korean money is being closely monitored by governments around the world, and they will spring to action if somebody takes the time to publicize the problem."

"I'm writing because I believe we can change history, " says Kato.

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