Thursday, August 18, 2016
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
A senior North Korean diplomat based in London has defected to South Korea, becoming one of the highest Northern officials to do so, South Korea said Wednesday.
Thae Yong Ho, minister at the North Korean Embassy in London, has arrived in South Korea with his family and is under the protection of the South Korean government, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said.
Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-Hee said Thae told South Korean officials that he decided to defect because of his disgust with the government of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, his yearning for South Korean democracy and worries about the future of his children.
Jeong said Thae was the second-highest official in North Korea’s embassy, and is the most senior North Korean diplomat to defect to South Korea.
Jeong refused to give further details about Thae’s defection, citing possible diplomatic problems with a concerned country he didn’t identify. Britain’s Foreign Office declined to comment.
Thae’s defection will likely enrage North Korea, which often accuses South Korea of kidnapping or enticing its citizens to defect.