The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Palestinian envoy denies Hamas connection with North Korea

Ambassador to Seoul stresses no new North Korean weapons have made it to Gaza

By Kim Arin

Published : Nov. 21, 2023 - 17:04

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Waleed Siam, the non-resident ambassador of Palestine to South Korea, speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald on Monday at a hotel in central Seoul. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) Waleed Siam, the non-resident ambassador of Palestine to South Korea, speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald on Monday at a hotel in central Seoul. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

Waleed Siam, the non-resident ambassador of Palestine to South Korea, said Monday that there was no connection between Hamas and North Korea, amid continued speculations of the Palestinian militant group’s alleged ties with the rogue country.

“I can say in the name of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestinian authorities that there is no contact between Hamas and North Korea,” the permanent general mission of Palestine said in an interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul.

He said that the only contact Palestinians have with North Korea was through the representation of the PLO.

The PLO officially governs the State of Palestine, which Siam represents. Hamas controls Gaza, a small part of Palestine bordering Egypt.

“All communications with North Korea are through the PLO,” he said. “I can say officially ... North Korea has no involvement with Hamas.”

Since the Oct. 7 assault on Israel by Hamas, South Korea’s senior military and intelligence officials have suggested North Korea’s possible association with the militant group and Palestine.

Speaking to reporters on Oct. 17, a Joint Chiefs of Staff official said that the Palestinian group “may be directly or indirectly linked with North Korea.”

The director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, Kim Kyou-hyun, said in a Nov. 1 briefing to members of the National Assembly that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was mobilizing support for Palestine in the conflict with Israel.

Media have also highlighted photographs of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, that appear to be of North Korean origin.

Siam denied North Korea was working with or arming Hamas.

“I will reiterate that Hamas has no connection whatsoever with North Korea,” he said.

On reports that Hamas used some North Korean weapons in attacks on Israel, he said he was “sure” no weapons have gotten to Gaza from North Korea recently. “There are no new weapons that came into Gaza from North Korea, for sure. If there were, we would know about it,” he said.

The ambassador explained that when Hamas took over Gaza, they took into their possession the North Korean weapons that the PLO had brought in. “We used to get weapons from North Korea a long time ago. They are old weapons, I’m talking like AK-47s. These aren’t rockets or anything like that,” he said.

Siam said he found the attempts to link Hamas with North Korea to be offensive, saying they appeared to be a ploy being used by politicians to rally the North Korea-sensitive public here.

“It’s complete disrespect to the dead, to humanity. It’s sickening,” he said. “Leave Palestinians alone. Let our children die in peace. Stop manipulating the story with your North Korea rhetoric.”

He said that Palestine, which has a diplomatic relationship with North Korea, is a “friend” to both Koreas. “We have great respect for the people of North and South Koreas. We support your unification and peace. We have no animosity toward either Korea, North or South.”

He said Palestinian lawyers were collecting evidence of potential “war crimes and other atrocities being perpetrated by Israel to bring them to face justice” under international law.

He said he believes the fate faced by Russian President Vladimir Putin -- who has an International Criminal Court arrest warrant issued after him for the war in Ukraine -- awaited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He denied the US and the EU’s labeling of Hamas as terrorists.

He said the countries that “share the same colonizer mentality” were standing up for Israel, accusing them of being “complicit.” “You don’t call people fighting for their country’s liberation ‘terrorists,’” he said.

Neither were the comparisons to Islamic State or the suspicions of Iran’s support fair.

“Hamas does not subscribe to the ideology or thinking of ISIS,” he said. “If Hamas is indeed backed by Iran, where are they? It’s been over 40 days and I don’t see Iran coming to help us.”

Siam warned the stance taken since Oct. 7 by US President Joe Biden -- whom he accused of being “bought” by “Zionist lobbyists” -- was going to cost him the election next year.

“Biden will pay the price for enabling the horrors that Palestinians are going through right now,” he said. “US presidents, while they are in office, their conscience tend to be polluted by Zionist lobbyists,” he added, blaming Zionism for “what happened on Oct. 7, and what has been happening for the past 75 years in Gaza.”

“Zionism is responsible for all the crimes that Israel has committed since 1948 until today, and the crimes that they are still committing in Gaza on a daily basis. ... Zionism is expansionism,” he said, calling the ongoing war an “ethnic cleansing, extermination of the Palestinian people.”

He pointed out that South Korea hasn’t designated Hamas as a terrorist group, and that the United Nations hadn't either. While Japan has imposed sanctions against Hamas, they held little significance as Hamas has “no accounts open outside Palestine,” he said. “They work in cash.”

He said that slowly, the international community was changing its views and language regarding what is going on in Gaza. “People in the US, here in South Korea and in other parts of the world are taking to the streets to condemn Israel’s war crimes against Palestinians,” he said.

“My message to the South Korean people is this: Open your eyes and see the truth. Don’t be blinded by the propaganda that some are putting out,” he said. “We are not that different. We are fighting for our freedom and independence just like your grandfathers did. Be on the right side of history.”

He continued, “To politicians, don’t be using the blood and misery of Palestinians for whatever game you are playing, and bringing Palestine into your political rhetoric on North Korea.”

Siam, who is in Seoul for about a week, said he is due to speak with Israeli Ambassador Akiva Tor in a televised debate later this week. He plans to meet with National Assembly members and Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials while he is here.