Behind the Shades of NK’s Security Entourage

North Korea’s top delegation that visited the South last
Saturday for the Incheon Asian Games’ closing ceremony landed with its own security
entourage, in a move seen as an effort to parade the stature of its visiting

The security agents, believed to be forces from the
country’s Escort Command, the unit tasked with guarding leader Kim Jong Eun and
the Kim family, were of sturdy builds, wearing dark suits, sunglasses, and
earpieces. Hwang Pyong So, one of the best known individuals in the North
Korean regime, was trailed by a group of the agents, who appeared tense and
ready to spring to action at the first sign of trouble.

It is the first time a high-level North Korean official has
visited the South with a dedicated security detail. Also, with the exception of
escort agents for the leader Kim Jong Eun, it is an unprecedented sight for a
top Pyongyang official to be accompanied by agents wearing sunglasses.

In regards to this matter, North Korean defectors in the
South said it is simply a “show” to put spotlight on how high of a ranking the
visiting officials have. Defectors also agree that it is a calculated move to
underscore the leader’s “Father-like care,” by sending his own security agents
to guard his top officials heading into the heart of “enemy territory.”

“Hwang Pyong So, Director of the General Political
Department of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] doesn’t have a separate escort
agent, and instead has one assistant who also acts as the driver,” a defector,
who goes by the alias Jeon Geum Cheol and entered the South last year, told
Daily NK. “The fact that Hwang came with security agents in sunglasses is
simply an act to emphasize the amount of authority he comes with.”

“The Escort Bureau is in charge of guarding Kim Jong Eun;
top elites, such as the head of the Ministry of Armed Forces, and the Director
of KPA General Political Department, are not served by the Command, and are
instead guarded by soldiers handpicked from the Ministry of the People’s Armed
Forces,” said Jeon. “There’s a high chance that Kim Jong Eun sent his agents to
give the delegation a higher status of appearance.”

Another defector who formerly served in North Korea’s
military for 30 years said, “The agents were on site drawing a lot of eyes, and
I believe this shows they were there more for appearances’ sake than security.”
He added, “It appears as though they got the idea from American and South Korean
movies and TV dramas and imitated those looks.”

“North Koreans usually think of gangs or spies — people
with more negative images — when they think of sunglasses,” the defector
added. “If agents show up in a suit with sunglasses, they would likely poke fun
at them, saying they’re being pretentious.”