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N.Korea's acting envoy to Kuwait has defected to S.Korea -lawmaker

Mon 25th January, 2021 7:37am
By Hyonhee Shin
    SEOUL, Jan 25 (Reuters) - North Korea's acting ambassador to
Kuwait has defected to South Korea, the latest in a recent
string of high-profile escapes from the isolated country, a
South Korean lawmaker said on Monday. 
    Ryu Hyun Woo had led North Korea's embassy in Kuwait since
former Ambassador So Chang Sik was expelled after a 2017 U.N.
resolution sought to scale back the country's overseas
diplomatic missions. 
    Ryu defected to South Korea last September, according to Tae
Yong Ho, who was North Korea's deputy ambassador to Britain
before settling in the South in 2016 and being elected as a
lawmaker last year.
    Kuwait had been a key source of foreign currency for
Pyongyang, which sent thousands of labourers there, mostly for
construction projects. 
    Tae said Ryu is also the son-in-law of Jon Il Chun, who once
oversaw a Worker's Party bureau responsible for managing the
ruling Kim family's secret coffers, dubbed Room 39.
    The National Intelligence Service declined to comment. 
    Ryu's defection could be a sign that the North Korean elite
who shore up leader Kim Jong Un's power base has been drifting
away from him slowly but constantly, Tae said.
    Ryu fled several months after Jo Song Gil, who was North
Korea's acting ambassador to Italy, vanished with his wife from
the embassy and resurfaced in South Korea.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL4N2GX2OY
    Tae told Reuters that the knowledge and experiences of the
outside world gained as a diplomat had fostered disillusionment
among his family, and he decided to escape to "give freedom" to
his children, calling for other officials to follow suit. 
    "I want to deliver to my colleagues working around the world
and North Korean elites that there is an alternative to North
Korea, and the door is open," Tae said in an interview at the
recent Reuters Next conference. 

 (Reporting by Hyonhee Shin. Editing by Gerry Doyle)
 ((hyonhee.shin@thomsonreuters.com; 822 6936 1474;))
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