North Korean diplomat in London embassy defects to 'third country'

LONDON - A North Korean diplomat posted to the pariah state's embassy in London has reportedly fled to a third country earlier this month, according to South Korean media on Tuesday (Aug 16).

The diplomat allegedly had lived in Britain for 10 years with his wife and family, the BBC reported.

South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo said he is currently seeking asylum in a "third country", which was not named. The report claimed the man had been responsible for keeping track of North Korean defectors in London and consular services.

Separately, South Korea said on Tuesday that its intelligence service had finished investigating 13 North Korean restaurant workers whose joint defection triggered accusations from Pyongyang that they were kidnapped.

A Unification Ministry official said the dozen waitresses and their manager had been “released into society” last week, the AFP reported. They had all been working at a North Korea-themed restaurant in China. Their arrival in the South in April made headlines as the largest group defection for years.

For all North Korean defectors, life in the South begins with intensive interrogation that can last for months and is aimed at weeding out possible spies.  

They are then sent to a resettlement centre for three months’ training, after which they are free to start new lives in South Korean society.

Nearly 30,000 North Koreans have fled poverty and repression at home to settle in the capitalist South.  But group defections are rare, especially by staff who work in the North Korea-themed restaurants overseas and who are handpicked from families considered “loyal” to the regime.