UPDATE: Chosun Ilbo’s Thursday edition claimed that the Mr. A in the article below has already defected to Seoul not Tokyo.
Two high-ranking North Korean officials stationed in Beijing sought asylum at the Japanese embassy at the end of September, South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported on Wednesday.
One of the defected officials was reportedly in charge of purchasing and supplying medicine and medical devices for some of Pyongyang’s most influential people, including Kim Jong Un, the report alleges.
“The high-ranking official Mr. A (alias) from the North Korea’s Ministry of Public Health, who had been operating as a North Korean representative in Beijing, disappeared with his wife and daughter on September 28,” an unnamed source told JoongAng Ilbo.
“They are processing their defection to Japan with the help of Japanese embassy in China,” said the source, saying that Mr. A is known to have relatives in Japan.
These defections, which are yet to be confirmed, come only two months after Thae Yong-ho, a North Korean diplomat based in London, defected – a story also broken by Lee Young-jong at JoongAng.
“The unnamed source in the article refers to a member of an NGO, who has been keeping a close eye on North Korea and information about the country,” Lee told NK News on Wednesday. “I don’t have the full details of this defection, and currently, the Japanese embassy in China is neither confirming nor denying it.”
Lee said he presumed that the defector and his family are still inside the Japanese embassy while Tokyo and Beijing try to reach an agreement.
The Yonhap News Agency appeared to corroborate the news, reporting that an official at the DPRK embassy in Beijing, affiliated with North Korea’s health ministry, has defected in recent weeks.
But Yonhap claimed the man and his family were hoping to gain asylum in South Korea, not Japan.
The Japanese government’s top spokesperson Yoshihide Suga denied that the country’s embassy in Beijing had received any request.
“There’s no truth in the reports that North Korean asylum seekers contacted the Japanese embassy, and we’re not aware of any situation involving North Koreans hoping to defect to Japan,” he told a press conference on Wednesday.
Jeong Yeon-guk, a spokesperson from the Blue House, would not comment.
“There is nothing that Seoul can confirm at this moment,” Unification Ministry spokesperson, Jeong Joon-hee said during the Wednesday briefing.
No one from the public relations office of the Japanese embassy in Beijing responded to phone calls, possibly because of an ongoing week-long holiday in China.
Another North Korean official, also from the North Korean embassy in Beijing, decided to defect with his family around the same time, according to JoongAng.
But a long-time North Korea watcher pointed out that these rumored defections, should they be confirmed, happened a few days before the President’s remarks.
“We can’t say that the sanctions are not working at all, it may have caused some level of agitation among North Korean elites,” Kim Byung-ro, a researcher from the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, told NK News.
“However, it is absurd to link the president’s speech with this event. Her remark was intended for the South Korean audiences (for domestic politics), not for the North Koreans.”
Edited by: Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Tiananmen Square & Forbidden City entrance, Beijing, China by ^Joe on 2015-10-04 01:44:51
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