National

Illegal export linked to North clinic, bio-war lab

Kyodo

The freeze dryer illegally exported by a Korean trader to North Korea four years ago may be at a Pyongyang clinic used by top leader Kim Jong Il that is also suspected of being a biological weapons research facility, police sources said Friday.

Kim Young Gun, 58, former president of Tokyo-based Meisho Yoko, told investigators that he was of the belief that the dryer would be used at Ponghwa clinic, which is reserved for VIPs, including high-ranking members of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea but is also believed a biological weapons research lab.

Kim Young Gun, a Korean resident of Japan, was arrested Thursday for illegally exporting the freeze dryer, which could have biological warfare applications.

Freeze dryers, which quickly dry solid substances in a vacuum, are mainly used to make instant coffee and noodles.

Their export is strictly regulated under the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law because they could be used to store and cultivate bacteria over long periods and to create weapons of mass destruction.

Meisho Yoko, based in Suginami Ward, Tokyo, received an order for the dryer in 2002 from a North Korean trading house and exported it to the North.

The North Korean trading house placed the order on behalf of a Pyongyang-based company called HELM, which in turn employs staff from a third trading house that is under the direct control of Kim Jong Il, police said.

On Thursday, a team of investigators from the Yamaguchi and Shimane prefectural police forces arrested Kim on suspicion of violating the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law for exporting the dryer through a Taiwanese trading house without the required permission from the trade minister.

Meisho Yoko is suspected of placing an order for the dryer with the Taiwanese trading house, which then purchased the machine through a Tokyo-based maker of scientific instruments.