This story is over 5 years old.

A North Korean Diplomat Accused of Smuggling Rhino Horn Was Kicked Out of South Africa

After authorities in neighboring Mozambique caught the man with 10 pounds of rhino horn stuffed into his embassy's diplomatic bag, he was forced to head back to North Korea.
Photo de Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

A North Korean diplomat was ejected from South Africa after he allegedly was discovered to be smuggling rhino horn, according to reports from national media outlet News24.

South Africa's Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Nelson Kgwete said on Wednesday that the diplomat officially left the country on December 11. News24 identified the man as Park Chol-jun (or Pak Chol Chun).


Park's troubles began more than seven months ago in Mozambique, when authorities caught him in the African country with illicit rhino horn in his car, tucked in the embassy's diplomatic bag. According to the News24 investigation, nearly $100,000 in cash and 10 pounds of rhino horn were stashed in the car while he was in Mozambique's capital of Maputo.

Related: Watch the VICE News 2015 Year in Review

Mozambique borders South Africa's to the northeast. One-thousand rhinos were poached in South Africa in 2014 according to a report by the UN and Interpol. That's compared to 50 in 2007. Poachers from Mozambique are known to take advantage of the country's shared 210-mile border with South Africa's expansive Kruger National Park.

In 2014, Mozambique's government approved stricter punishments for poaching, which previously was considered only a misdemeanor. Now individuals convicted of the crime can spend up to 12 years in jail and be hit with harsh fines.

After the May arrest in Mozambique, Park, the North Korean diplomat, was at some point sent back to South Africa on a $30,000 bail, although the exact date was unclear. In November, the government gave him 30 days to go back to North Korea.

South Africa is no stranger to foreign diplomats getting caught in the illegal rhino horn trade. Vietnam removed a diplomat in 2008 after that person was caught buying rhino horn during a television investigation, according to the BBC.

Follow VICE News on Twitter: @ViceNews