Meet North Korea's European envoy, Alejandro Cao de Benos
A jolly, stout, aristocratic Spaniard is sticking up for Kim Jong-un's regime in the West
AS NORTH KOREA ratchets up the tension with the West, its leader Kim Jong-un has at least one ally left beyond the borders of the isolated communist state. He is Alejandro Cao de Benos, a Spaniard who proudly promotes Pyongyang's interests across Europe and claims to be the only non-North Korean working for the pariah country.
The recent rise in aggressive rhetoric from North Korea has propelled Cao de Benos further into the limelight. He has his own Twitter account, linking to various interviews in the European press, runs a blog in which he champions the socialist cause in Spain and beyond, and has had his own Facebook page for several years.
In his official capacity as "honorary special delegate" to North Korea's Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, Cao de Benos has been on a tour of Europe extolling the regime's virtues.
His relationship with Pyongyang dates back to 2000 when he set up the country's first website, although he was an admirer of the communist state long before then.
In the 2000s he founded the Korean Friendship Association, depicted by The Independent last year as "a club for people wishing to express solidarity with a totalitarian regime whose deadly famines, spontaneous acts of aggression and nuclear weapons programme have it viewed even by its closest remaining patron, China, as a dangerous liability".
However, Cao de Benos does not subscribe to the usual Western view of North Korea. Described by Christian Science Monitor as "jolly, tan, and stout ... with aristocratic roots", he has been telling audiences: "We're in a propaganda battle with the West ... 95 per cent of the news about North Korea is false or propaganda."
According to the newspaper, "In one breath Cao de Benos claims that the common picture of poverty, famine, malnutrition, discrimination, disappearances, and political repression do not exist in North Korea, and in the next he freely talks about the use of multiple years' forced labour as a punishment for certain crimes".
But in interviews with several Spanish papers this month he has continued toeing the North Korean party line and defending its current stance. Asked about recent sabre-rattling and plans for nuclear missiles, he told Basque newspaper El Diario Vasco: "We must protect our country, our leader. Our socialism and independence."