North Korean leader's money manager defects in Russia: South Korea newspaper

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (centre) guides the actual parachuting and striking drill of paratrooper units of the KPA. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (centre) guides the actual parachuting and striking drill of paratrooper units of the KPA. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (Reuters) - A senior North Korean banking official who managed money for leader Kim Jong Un has defected in Russia and was seeking asylum in a third country, a South Korean newspaper reported on Friday, citing an unidentified source.

Mr Yun Tae Hyong, a senior representative of North Korea's Korea Daesong Bank, disappeared in Nakhodka, Russia, last week with US$5 million (S$6.24 million), the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported.

The Daesong Bank is suspected by the United States government of being under the control of the North Korean government's Office 39, which is widely believed to finance illicit activities and was blacklisted by the US Treasury Department in 2010.

The newspaper said North Korea had asked the Russian authorities for cooperation in efforts to capture Mr Yun.

South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, told Reuters it had no knowledge of the matter.

In 2005, US$25 million of North Korea's cash was frozen at Macau-based Banco Delta Asia, which the US Treasury said North Korea used for illicit activities.

That case stands as practically the only public success in seizing funds from the isolated country that is now led by Mr Kim, who is in his 30s and is the third of the Kim dynasty to rule.