Alejandro Cao de Benós, born in Tarragona, Spain in 1974, is a descendant of the barons of Les in the Aran Valley in northern Catalonia, the earls of Argelejo, and the marquises of Rosalmonte.
Besides his rather unusual lineage, it is unlikely that his name would be widely known if this 39-year-old Catalonian was not an important foreign spokesperson for the North Korean regime.
Founder and president of the Korean Friendship Association (KFA), he is an honorary special delegate of the country, where he is known as Cho Son-il, meaning “Korea is one”. In an interview with Tribuna Popular [es] he explained the origin of his relationship with the Asian country:
Con 16 años tuve posibilidad de conocer a mis primeros camaradas de la RPD de Corea que residían en Madrid (Representación Permanente ante la Organización Mundial del Turismo). El interés se convirtió en pasión y me identifiqué plenamente no sólo con la ideología del Presidente Kim Il Sung, sino con los principios y valores morales del pueblo coreano.
When I was 16 years old I had the chance to meet my first comrades of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea who were living in Madrid (Permanent Representation to the World Tourism Organisation). The interest became a passion and I fully identified not only with the ideology of President Kim Il Sung, but also the principles and moral values of the Korean people.
It is surprising that a regime as secretive as that of North Korea trusts a foreigner. However, Cao de Benós has been awarded honours thanks to this trust, such as being a special delegate of the Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, an honorary member of the Workers’ Party of Korea, an honorary member of the Korean People's Army and an honorary journalist for North Korea.
But some people in the media doubt the actual influence of Cao de Benós, who is considered to be an outsider that Pyongyang uses to clean up its image abroad. They believe that in reality he only has contact with minor officials and can not access any relevant information, which seems to confirm his comments on the succession of Kim Jong Il in a letter to the newspaper El Mundo [es] on September 18, 2010:
Kim Jong Un es un total desconocido tanto para la población como las autoridades de la RPD de Corea. En 18 años de trabajo, jamás he visto su foto o leído un libro sobre él. Si existiera, nunca sería aceptado por el pueblo o el ejército.
Kim Jong Un is a total stranger to both the people and the authorities of the DPRK. In 18 years of work, I have never seen a photograph of him or read a book about him. If such things existed, he would never be accepted by the people or the army.
A year later, however, after the death of Kim Jong Il and the succession of his son Kim Jong Un, he radically changed his opinion in El Confidencial:
Es muy joven, pero es un general muy bien preparado (…) Ha aprendido mucho de su padre, le ha seguido de cerca profesionalmente, como es tradición en Corea del Norte y en la filosofía confucionista.
He is very young, but he is a very well-prepared general (…) He has learned a lot from his father, he has followed him professionally, as is the tradition in North Korea and in Confucian philosophy.
Cao de Benós has been very busy recently, since he is the only foreigner with official permission to discuss the North Korean regime, and he has been giving interviews and lecturing non-stop. On April 18, 2013, the following declarations were made in the Diari de Tarragona [es]:
[¿Sería capaz Corea del Norte de atacar al propio Estados Unidos?] También. Podemos alcanzar cualquier punto del país. Tenemos capacidad tecnológica para ello. Colocamos tres satélites en órbita para usos pacíficos, pero podemos emplear la misma tecnología para usos militares. (…)
Si Estados Unidos se atreve a usar uranio empobrecido contra nosotros, no dudaremos en responder con armamento nuclear. Y esto afectaría a todo el mundo.
[Would North Korea be able to attack the United States itself?] Also. We can reach any part of the country. We have the technological capacity to do so. We placed three satellites into orbit for peaceful purposes, but we can utilise the same technology for military purposes. (…)
If the United States dares to use depleted uranium against us, we will not hesitate to respond with nuclear weapons. And this would affect the whole world.
(…) cada año publican una lista de los países que más violan los derechos humanos y en la que el primer lugar lo ocupa, casi siempre, Corea del Norte. Pues bien, AI no ha visitado jamás el país. (…) Esto demuestra que estas supuestas ONGs no son más que instrumentos políticos de Estados Unidos y la CIA.
(…) every year a list is published of the countries that most violate human rights, and in first place, almost always, is North Korea. Well, AI has never visited the country. (…) This shows that these so-called NGOs are nothing more than political instruments of the U.S. and the CIA.
When asked about the North Korean regime's concentration camps by El País [es] in December, 2011, Cao de Benós responded:
No existen. Son campos de reeducación donde los presos trabajan y estudian la doctrina del régimen (…) Yo mismo he mandado a dos personas a campos de reeducación.
They do not exist. They are reeducation camps where prisoners work and study the doctrine of the regime (…) I myself have sent two people to reeducation camps.
Although North Korea is a secretive country where the Internet is prohibited, Cao de Benós, who lives in Spain, is extremely active on the web. He has a Twitter account, a Facebook page and a blog [es] that he uses to express his ideas and attract supporters. And that is precisely what he has been doing recently; he launched an ipetition to organise international support groups for North Korea. On March 11, 2013, he tweeted:
@DPRK_CAODEBENOS: Show your support by joining the DPRK International Defense Brigade! * Apoye la brigada de defensa de la RPDC!
In a few days the petition had reached 1000 signatures, and since then enrollment in these groups can be made by email, as Cao de Benós explains in his blog [es].
But that is not all he has been doing. Cao de Benós also organises trips to North Korea through the country's official website, which he administers. The trips, which cost around $3100 for American citizens and $2450 for everyone else (not including the plane from Beijing), last for 8 days and cannot be taken by people related to the media.
@Ragnarok_Madrid: Acabarás siendo el Bin Laden español grandullón, no sé qué beneficio sacas de tus declaraciones, yo que tu lo dejaría..
@Ragnarok_Madrid: You'll end up being the overgrown Spanish Bin Laden. I don't know what benefit you get from your statements, if I were you I'd leave it…