French official Benoit Quennedey accused of spying on North Korea

After four days of questioning, he was put under official investigation on Thursday on three different counts, delivering information to a foreign power, gathering information with the intent of delivering it to a foreign power and committing espionage for a foreign power. He faces up to 10 years in jail and a fine up to $170,000 if found guilty.

Quennedey was head of the Franco-Korean Friendship Association and has written books and essays on North Korea and traveled extensively to the isolated nation since 2005, according to the website of his publisher, Delga. His latest book was “North Korea, the Unknown,” published in 2017.

It is unclear what kind of sensitive secrets Quennedey would have been able to gather in his position in the Senate. French newspaper Le Parisien quoted his book publisher as saying that Quennedey “had no access to strategic information.”

Investigations into Quennedey began a year ago, the DGSI believes that Quennedey’s interest in the country is not entirely harmless. Following his arrest this week, investigators searched both his office and residence in Paris, as well as his room at his parents’ home in Dijon. Although his role at the Senate did not grant him access to confidential security information, he did have access to information on the inner workings of government and the daily lives of elected officials.

According to BBC, Quennedey has traveled several times to Pyongyang in recent years and met officials and academics working in the architecture and construction fields. Reacting to his arrest, Senate President Gérard Larcher said, “If the allegations against him were proven, this would seriously undermine the image of our institution.” France is the only member of the European Union that does not recognize North Korea as a sovereign state and has no diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.

Thomas Carvalho, a French international student at Washburn says that he actions are shameful and pointless.

“I feel it’s a shame to spy on a country that gave you everything like free education and free healthcare,” Carvalho said. “I can understand he was trying to close ties between two country and two culture, but I don’t think North Korea is worth it.”

Sophomore Business major Sabrina Rana has a different opinion.

“I think Quennedey is just very enthusiastic about North Korea and he is not a spy if found guilty it would be shameful for the French government,” said Rana.

The French arrest comes at a time when talks between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled over the lack of progress towards the regime’s nuclear disarmament. North Korea has refused to move forward with negotiations until the US makes concessions, including the easing of financial sanctions, according to The Telegraph. The French government does not maintain diplomatic relations with Pyongyang but has a French Cooperation Office in North Korea, tasked with promoting humanitarian and cultural activities.