BANGKOK—North Korean embassy officials in Burma have seized hundreds of copies of a biography of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, alleging that the book contains errors, according to the book’s author.
Hein Latt, 62, said two men working for the North Korean embassy came to his Popular News publishing house on July 6 in the former Burmese capital, Rangoon, and took 310 copies of his book, Dear Leader, without offering to pay for them.
"They said because the two books I used as references are American books, some facts are wrong, and they wanted to take them. So I gave [the books] to them," Hein Latt said.
"No one accompanied them. It was only two of them—two men. I counted the books and let them sign for them. To tell the truth, I gave the books to them because I am afraid of [North Koreans]. I know more about them than others because I am writing about them."
"We writers are not investigators. We read many books and use facts from the books as they are. I have no way of knowing if the facts are right or wrong."
Hein Latt said the men didn't indicate which parts of the book allegedly contained errors when they visited him last week.
One of the officials demanded the copies and told him to withdraw the books from sale before signing for them and leaving, he said.
"One who seemed to be at the counselor level spoke English but the other didn't. He just stood there and collected the books," he said.
Remaining copies hidden
Dear Leader, which referenced two books about North Korea published in the U.S., was published in May after receiving clearance from the Burmese Press Scrutiny Department, an agency known for strictly vetting written works.
Hein Latt said he used information from Bradley K. Martin’s Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader and Jasper Becker’s Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea, to write the book, as well as reference material borrowed from the North Korean Embassy.
He said he used a total of 12 books as reference material to write the book.
Book House, a publishing company separate from Hein Latt's Popular News, released the biography with an initial printing of 2,000 copies available for 4,000 kyat (U.S. $4 at black market rates) each.
Nearly 700 copies of the book had already been sold in Burma before it was pulled from shelves.
Shop owners are now hiding the book because they are afraid North Korean embassy staff will visit their bookstores as well.
The author is widely known in Burma for his 20 years of work, during which time he has translated and written around 90 books, including more than 20 biographies of world leaders.
But he said he had never been approached by anyone about his work in such a way.
The incident comes as North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun is visiting Burma and conducting talks with the country’s Prime Minister Thein Sein. Little information has been made public about the trip.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently voiced concerns over military ties between the two authoritarian regimes amid reports that Burma may be seeking nuclear technology from North Korea.
Original reporting by Nyan Win Aung for RFA’s Burmese service. Burmese service director: Nyein Shwe. Translated by Khin May Zaw. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.