Diplomat defector branded a ‘criminal’
NORTH Korea’s deputy ambassador to Britain, who defected to South Korea this week, is a criminal who had been ordered to return home for questioning, Pyongyang state media has claimed.
Thae Yong-ho is one of the highestranking North Korean diplomats ever to defect to the South – gifting Seoul a major propaganda coup at a time of rising tension on the divided Korean peninsula.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on August 20 that Mr Thae, whom they described as “human scum”, had embezzled state funds, raped a minor and spied for South Korea in exchange for money.
The report did not name the “diplomat who fled his mission in London” but was apparently referring to Mr Thae.
Any defection by a ranking member of an overseas North Korean mission would make waves, but London is considered a particularly prestigious posting that puts Mr Thae’s move on a whole different level.
The news agency criticised Britain for handing over Mr Thae and his family to the South, saying that Pyongyang had previously told London of his crimes and requested his extradition.
The comments mark Pyongyang’s first public response to the high-level defection, making it a rare and evidentally galling loss of face for North Korea.
Seoul said Mr Thae’s defection reflected a loss of faith among North Korea’s elite in Kim Jong-un’s leadership. –