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Clearing North Korea’s bad debt (Part 2)

The common wisdom among Pyongyang watchers is that responsibility for North Korea’s failure, up to now, to clear its foreign debt is entirely the country’s own. London businessman Colin McAskill has a different view.

During 1987, while overseeing North Korea’s bullion trade, McAskill made two attempts to negotiate a restructuring of the country’s defaulted London Club (non-sovereign) debt. Both failed. Rather than placing the onus entirely on the North Koreans, he assigns much of the blame to moves by a banking syndicate led by the London office of Melbourne-based ANZ Bank.

He got involved after receiving a mandate from the chairman of Korea Daesong Group and Korea Daesong Bank to meet with Morgan Polton, an ANZ Bank department head representing two bank lenders’ syndicates: ANZ’s own, and another led by merchant bank Morgan Grenfell. Asia Times has learned that Polton died in 2015.

Richard Halcrow was a Morgan Grenfell director who eventually took over from Polton as McAskill’s counterpart in the negotiations. He stayed on for a time with Morgan Grenfell after it had been acquired by Deutsche Bank, before resigning in 1997. Attempts to reach Halcrow for comment have been unsuccessful.

At the outset, McAskill says, “the main negotiations were started with ANZ directly with Polton and his team. Occasionally Halcrow and his team would join when we reached a point of contention.”

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