High-ranking North Korean defects to South, Seoul says

A senior official at the North Korean embassy in London has arrived in South Korea, the government in Seoul said, in one of the highest-ranking defections ever from the secretive communist state.

The 55-year-old diplomat, Thae Yong Ho, fled with his family and they are now under the protection of the government in South Korea, the Unification Ministry said Wednesday.

Thae, the number two in the London embassy, was disillusioned with the rule of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the ministry said.

It is unclear exactly how Thae, who had been living in London for many years, reached South Korea.

Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon Hee said the defection showed that "internal solidarity is weakening" in Kim's regime, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The defection is likely to strain already-fraught tensions between South and North Korea. The two sides are officially still at war since the Korean War in the 1950s ended in a truce rather than a peace deal.

North Korea carried out an atomic test in January, and in recent months fired several mid-range missiles, including a ballistic missile that landed in the sea off the Japanese coast.

In July, South Korea and the US announced the deployment of the advanced missile defence system in South Korea, incurring the wrath of Pyongyang.

Many North Koreans flee the country each year because of famine and repression. Most cross the border into China or travel via other countries to South Korea.

In April, a group of 13 North Koreans who worked in the same restaurant in an unspecified country defected to South Korea.

Last update: Wed, 17/08/2016 - 16:25
Author: 

More from World

Australia will continue pursuing trade deal, minister says

Australia is not giving up on the historic Trans-Pacific Partnership, despite US president Donald Trump withdrawing...

Militants in Ukraine, Turkey and Yemen fuel rise in global attacks

The number of attacks worldwide by terrorists and militants soared by 26 per cent to more than 24,000 last year,...

Trump Organization: President has no more role in businesses

Newly inaugurated US President Donald Trump, a New York-based real estate mogul and investor, has relinquished all...

At least 11 killed as al-Shabaab tries to seize town in Somalia

At least 11 people died Monday when heavily armed insurgents of the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab tried to...

Trump talks military aid with Egypt's al-Sissi

US President Donald Trump told Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi Monday that the new US administration is...