Elite North Korean defector says more diplomats waiting to defect to Seoul: Yonhap

former North Korea deputy Thae Yong-ho, the former North Korean deputy ambassador to London, gestures while speaking during a news conference at the Government Complex in Seoul, South Korea, December 27, 2016. News1 via REUTERS

SEOUL (Reuters) – More high-level North Korean diplomats are waiting to defect to South Korea from their overseas posts in Europe, Pyongyang’s former deputy ambassador to London said on Tuesday, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

Thae Yong Ho defected to South Korea in August last year and since December 2016 has been speaking to local media and appearing on variety television shows to discuss his defection to Seoul and his life as a North Korean envoy.

“A significant number of North Korean diplomats came to South Korea recently,” Thae said, according to Yonhap.

“I am not the only one from Europe. There are more waiting to come,” Thae said, speaking at an event held in South Korea’s parliamentary building.

Thae, 54, has said publicly that dissatisfaction with the rule of young leader Kim Jong Un had led him to flee his post, but he also had two university-age sons living with him and his wife in London who were due to return to isolated North Korea.

He is the highest-ranking official to have fled North Korea for the South since the 1997 defection of Hwang Jang Yop, the brains behind North Korea’s governing ideology, “Juche”, which combines Marxism with extreme nationalism.

“Of all the recent high-level defectors, I am the only one to have gone public,” said Thae.

(Reporting by James Pearson; Additional reporting by Jeong Eun Lee)

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