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NORTH KOREA

North Korea steps up Spanish presence

North Korea's first ever ambassador to Spain presented his credentials to King Juan Carlos Wednesday as part of a push by the isolated nuclear-armed state to boost its ties with the European Union.

North Korea steps up Spanish presence
Kim Hyok Chol, a 43-year-old former advisor at North Korea's foreign ministry, presented their credentials to the king at the Zarzuela Palace.Photo: Borja Fotógrafos/Spanish Royal House/AFP

Kim Hyok Chol, a 43-year-old former advisor at North Korea's foreign ministry, was one of 17 new ambassadors who presented their credentials to the king at the Zarzuela Palace.

King Juan Carlos also received the credentials of new UK ambassador to Spain Simon Manley

North Korea opened its first ever embassy in Spain in October 2013, a story that The Local broke.

At the time Spain's foreign ministry said North Korea's "interest in opening an embassy in Madrid follows its policy of having a more direct dialogue with the main nations of the European Union."

North Korea has an embassy in nine other EU member states: Austria, Britain, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania and Sweden.

The country's embassy in Madrid will have between 10-15 employees once it is fully up and running, an embassy spokesman said.

Spain and North Korea have had diplomatic relations since February 2001.

North Korea's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kung Sok Ung, visited Spain last year as part of a tour of several EU states.

But the secretive Asian nation has had an unofficial ambassador in Spain for some time now: Alejandro Cao de Benós.

This quirky Spaniard's admiration and loyalty to North Korea landed him the job of  "Honourary Special Delegate" for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries.

Read our in-depth profile of Cao de Benós: North Korea's secret weapon in Spain.

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AMBASSADOR

British ambassador’s quest to reunite with Spanish woman ends in tears

Hugh Elliott, the newly appointed British ambassador to Madrid made headlines last week when he went public with a heartwarming story about the hospitality he received from a stranger on his first trip to Burgos in 1984.

British ambassador’s quest to reunite with Spanish woman ends in tears
HMA Hugh Elliott sad he had cried more than a little at the news of his old friend. Photo: British Embassy/FCO

He described how as a student he became stranded in the northern Spanish city after his bicycle failed to arrive on the same train as him, making his onward trip to a budget campsite impossible.

But on sharing his plight with a stranger in the bar he was offered a place to stay with a Spanish family who refused to take a payment for his board and lodging.

“It took five days for the bike to arrive. I spent all those days staying and eating with them as family without them letting me pay for anything,” recalled the ambassador, who arrived at the Madrid posting in August.

“How many countries would have welcomed a stranger like that?” Elliott asked in a video he posted on his twitter account on Tuesday.

READ MORE: UK ambassador looking to find friend who helped him when he was a hard up youngster in Spain


Hugh Elliott posted a clip on Twitter recounting the story and asked for help to find Lourdes Arnáiz. 

He asked for help to track down the woman who had shown such warm hospitality, whose name he remembered was Lourdes Arnáiz.

He asked the twittersphere for help to track her down after all these years so that he could properly thank her and her family all these years later.

On Friday evening he posted a new video with the update that his quest for news of Lourdes had been successful thanks to the huge response –

He said the reaction to his first video had been “totally unexpected, overwhelming and very affectionate”

“Thanks to your support, I now have news of her, but this is the sad part,” he said, visibly emotional. “I’m very sorry to have to say that Lourdes passed away at the age of 35 from Multiple Sclerosis. I had hoped for another outcome, but alas, it isn’t so.”

 Elliott said he had spoken to Lourdes’ brother, Alfonso, whom he also knew all those years ago and who lives in Burgos with his family and the pair had resumed their friendship and would meet soon.

But in the meantime the ambassador urged those who had been touched by the story to donate something to associations dedicated to helping those sufferers of multiple sclerosis, either as volunteers or through a donation.

“if this story has touched you, and I have to say that I have cried more than in a little, there's something that you can do.” 

He pointed out that there were several organisations in Burgos dedicated to helping those with the disease, as well in Santiago, the city he was headed for in 1984 as well as in Salamanca, where he later worked as a young teacher. There is also a national organisation, he said.

“Each one of us can contribute our ‘grain of sand’ with our time as a volunteer or with a donation. Thanks for your support and the interest that you have shown in this story and thanks so much for all your endearing messages,” he said.

The ambassador then tweeted a list of organisations in the places he mentioned that support multiple sclerosis suffers.

 

 

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