North Korea 'trying to stop my plans for NI-made Kim Jong-un action figure'
A Belfast-based designer suspects North Korean officials are behind attempts to derail his crowd-funding campaign to produce a doll of the rogue state's dictator Kim Jong-un.
Swede Karl Holmstrom (32), who has been living here for three years, launched the drive in a bid to raise £12,000 to produce the action figure commercially.
A tongue-in-cheek promotional video accompanies the funding appeal and ends with the quote: "Get your Kim Jong-un action figure today, nuclear missiles sold separately."
On Wednesday Mr Holmstrom said he received "two really strange" phone calls with demands to stop his activities, followed by what he suspects was an attempt to hack his email account.
"The line was really bad and they had a thick accent. There was no threats or anything, it was short and they insisted the campaign was removed," he explained.
"I can't be sure these people were actually calling from the North Korean embassy. But then yesterday there was actually a hacking attempt on my email. I could tell, as when I tried to log in yesterday it was locked.
"I thought they were prank calls at first, but when the email hack followed, I'm not sure what to think."
Mr Holmstrom said he wouldn't be deterred.
He got the idea for the action figure after seeing the movie The Interview starring James Franco and Seth Rogan.
The comedy centres round a fictional assassination plot against Kim Jong-un by an American talk show host.
Famously, film distributor Sony pulled it from cinemas after a hacking attack from a group calling itself Guardians of the Peace leaked employee details online and issued threats to movie-goers in New York.
Pyongyang denied it was behind the Sony hacking.
When the North Korean embassy in London was contacted for a response about Mr Holmstrom's claims, a representative told the Belfast Telegraph to call back later and hung up.
An email request to the embassy went unanswered.
Mr Holmstrom said he would only agree to stop the funding campaign if a 40-year debt between North Korea and Sweden was settled.
In the 1970s Kim Il-Sung - grandfather of Kim Jong-un and supreme leader of North Korea until his death in 1994 - ordered 1,000 Volvo cars, but the money was never paid. With inflation, it is believed the bill stands at around £231m. It has been reported that many of the vehicles are still in use in Pyongyang.
Earlier this month North Korea test-launched a ballistic missile that landed in the Sea of Japan.
The move was believed to be a direct challenge to the new South Korean President Moon Jae-in and coincided with US, Japanese and European navies gathering for joint war games in the Pacific.