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North Korea has appointed a new ambassador to its mission at the United Nations office in Geneva, the U.N. said on a website.

Jo Chol Su, who previously served as director-general of international organizations at North Korea’s foreign ministry, presented his credentials to the U.N. Office at Geneva on Friday, it said.

The new envoy has “extensive experience” working with the U.N., including as first secretary at the North Korean U.N. mission in Geneva and as a national staff member for the World Food Program and United Nations Development Program delegations in Pyongyang, the U.N. added on its website. 

Graduating from the prestigious Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies in 1993, Jo is a career diplomat who has held various senior positions in North Korea’s foreign ministry, including in the North America department, handling negotiations over the country’s nuclear weapons program.

The appointment comes five months after Jo’s predecessor, Han Tae Song, returned to the North amid allegations of his involvement in ivory smuggling.

In December last year, reports emerged that North Korea decided to recall Han as both the panel of experts of the U.N. Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea and Swiss officials were investigating his purported involvement in ivory trafficking in Africa. 

Botswana, along with South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique, had been investigating a North Korean-affiliated ivory and rhino horn smuggling operation for over a year.

The ring was accused of pilfering at least 19 elephant tusks and 18 rhino horns from Botswana on two occasions in 2022 and 2023 and then channeling them through South Africa and Zimbabwe to Mozambican buyers linked to North Korea.

The investigation discovered two buyers from North Korea were central to a major smuggling operation involving wildlife products. One of these individuals, Yi Kang Dae, confirmed as an intelligence official in North Korea’s state security, collaborated with the former ambassador, Han. 

At that time, a security source in Zimbabwe told media outlets that there was a big chance that Han may have revived a smuggling network he ran while posted in the country in the 1990s.

Edited by Mike Firn. 


This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By Taejun Kang for RFA.