NKorea state media says diplomat defector ‘criminal’

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SEOUL: North Korea’s deputy ambassador to Britain, who defected to South Korea this week, is a criminal who had been ordered to return home for questioning, Pyongyang state media said Saturday.

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The defector, Thae Yong-Ho, had embezzled huge sums of money, raped a minor and spied for South Korea, Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

It criticized the United Kingdom for handing over “human scum” Thae and his family to the South, saying that Pyongyang had previously told London of his crimes and requested his extradition.

The comments mark Pyongyang’s first public response to the high-level defection, which was a rare and damaging loss of diplomatic face for North Korea.

Seoul said earlier this week that Thae’s defection reflected a loss of faith among North Korea’s elite in Kim Jong-Un’s leadership.

Thae had become disillusioned with the Pyongyang regime, admired South Korea’s free and democratic system, and was concerned about his family’s future, the South’s Unification Ministry said at the time.

Thae was believed to have worked at the embassy in London for 10 years, with one of his main tasks being to counter the image of North Korea as a nuclear pariah state and notorious human rights abuser.

He is one of the highest ranking diplomats ever to defect to the South, which handed Seoul a major propaganda coup at a time of rising tension on the divided Korean peninsula.

AFP

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