N Korea embassy official in Beijing defects
A TOP North Korean embassy official in Beijing has defected, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said yesterday, while a separate report suggested two embassy staff had sought asylum with the Japanese mission there.
If confirmed, it would mark the latest in a recent series of high-profile North Korean defections that some observers see as a sign of growing instability within the leadership in Pyongyang.
Yonhap, quoting an anonymous source, said the official – stationed in the Beijing embassy but attached to the North Korean health ministry – had disappeared with his family in late September.
The source said the official was responsible for sourcing medical supplies for a clinic in Pyongyang that caters to North Korean leader Kim JongUn and his family.
In a separate report, the South Korean daily, JoongAng Ilbo, said two senior staffers at the North Korean embassy in Beijing had asked for asylum in Japan.
The newspaper cited an anonymous source as saying the two officials were not diplomats, but attached to a North Korean government office.
The North has been rocked by a number of defections, most recently that of its deputy ambassador to Britain who fled to the South in a major propaganda victory for Seoul.
In a speech on October 2 to mark Armed Forces Day, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye made a direct appeal to more North Koreans to abandon their country.
North-South ties are at a new low in the wake of Pyongyang’s two nuclear tests and numerous missile launches this year. –