A member of staff of the North Korean embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia defected to South Korea in August, sources told the Seoul based Yonhap news agency on Friday.
The unnamed DPR Korea embassy official appeared at the South Korean embassy in the Ethiopian capital asking for help with his defection to Seoul, Yonhap’s sources said.
“At that time, he worked for the North Korean office of the trade representative in Ethiopia,” the unnamed sourced said, “I’ve learned that he is not a senior official, though”.
The North Korean embassy later learned of the defection, they added, and expressed outrage, indicated the defection came a surprise and that his motives were not know.
Defections by North Korean diplomats in Ethiopia and Africa more broadly are common – in 2009 a 40 year old doctor identified only as “Kim” sought asylum at the South Korean embassy in Addis Ababa, with North Korean officials responding by demanding his return and blockading the South Korean embassy with vehicles.
The 1990s saw several North Korean diplomats in Africa defect – the most prominent being Hyon Song il, diplomatic representative of the DPRK to Zambia, who defected in 1996. Hyon possessed key information about Kim Jong Il’s leadership and internal North Korean politics, as well as being the nephew of Hyon Chol Hae, a key military aide to Kim Jong Il.
In 1997, too, the North Korean ambassador to Egypt Jang Sung Gil defected, along with his brother, who served as a trade representative in Paris.
Mike Madden, editor of the NK Leadership Watch website, told NK News that North Korean defections in Africa are common because the wide dispersal of staff around the continent means it “would be more difficult to [keep them] under surveillance, simply because their territory is a lot bigger”.
What matters, Madden argues, is how much the diplomat knows about the inner dealings of the North Korean elites. “This could be a relative of a senior DPRK elite who may have direct knowledge about the regime and possibly something about internal politics,” Madden said.
“I would presume, given his position as a trade rep at the embassy,” he continued, that “this man has a working knowledge of the DPRK’s conventional arms sales to sub-Saharan African countries and may have some knowledge about some of the country’s key relationships”.
In September the daughter of the Pyongyang Districty Minister of People’s Security, who had been studying in Beijing, defected to South Korea.
Picture: Eric Lafforuge, Addis Abbaba
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