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Kim Jong-un has friends in the North. . . of Kerry, that is

North Kerry and North Korea are unlikely bedfellows – but in a tiny village 16 miles from Tralee you'll find the Irish epicentre of support for Kim Jong-un's defiant state.

In his home in the parish of Causeway (population 568) 22-year-old Antoin Fletcher co-ordinates activities for the Irish branch of the Korean Friends Association (KFA), which he says has 20 members with more joining all the time.

The KFA lists its objectives as "showing the reality of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to the world, defending its independence and socialist construction and to work for the peaceful unification of the Korean peninsula".

"We aim to tackle propaganda spouted by the Western imperialist media and give an accurate portrayal of the country," Antoin told the Irish Independent this week.

"The recent situation is a reaction to constant intimidation by the government of the US and their puppet state South Korea. Comrade Kim-Jong-un wants it to be known that the DPRK have the capabilities to fight a defensive war."

The former Causeway Comprehensive Secondary School pupil added: "I'm a Marxist-Leninist and always admired the DPRK for staying true to its beliefs. While other countries, such as Russia, watered down their communist structure in a self-revisionist way, Korea stood firm."

He said reports of human rights abuses in North Korea were "absolute myths and lies", adding: "If human rights abuse is the basis for sanctions and offensive action why don't the US invade Saudi Arabia?"

Though he has never visited the county, the unemployed activist told me: "There are no concentration camps, the people are fed, there is free education and healthcare."

Antoin, who last Sunday led a small KFA protest outside the US Embassy in Dublin, plans to visit Pyongyang in the next year.

The aspiring journalist added: "Ireland and the DPRK have so much in common. We're both victims of colonialism and we shouldn't forget that."

Graham Clifford

Irish Independent