Western Morning News

Diplomat defects from North Korea

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A NORTH KOREAN diplomat who served as the country’s acting ambassador to Kuwait has defected to South Korea, according to legislator­s in the South who were briefed by

Seoul’s spy agency.

Ha Tae-keung, executive secretary of the National Assembly’s intelligen­ce committee in Seoul, said he had been told by officials from the National Intelligen­ce Service that the diplomat arrived in South Korea in September, 2019, with his wife and at least one child.

That would make him one of the most senior North Koreans to defect in recent years. North Korea, which touts itself as a socialist paradise, is extremely sensitive about defections, especially among its elite, and has sometimes insisted they are

South Korean or American plots to undermine its government.

Mr Ha said he was told that the diplomat, who changed his name to Ryu Hyun-woo after arriving in the South, had escaped for undisclose­d reasons through an un-named South Korean diplomatic mission.

While North Korea has expressed anger over some high-profile defections in the past, it has also been known to maintain silence when defectors keep a low profile – such as the 2018 defection of its former acting ambassador to Italy.

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