A high-profile diplomat who defected from North Korea’s embassy in the UK earlier this year will be further integrating into South Korean society as of Friday, a South Korean lawmaker told local press on Monday.
The head of South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee, Lee Cheol-woo, announced that former Deputy Ambassador Thae Yong Ho was to be released from National Intelligence Service (NIS) protection.
The decision had reportedly been conveyed by Thae to Lee and intelligence committee members during a closed meeting on Monday.
Thae defected to South Korea with his wife and two sons earlier in the year and has since been under the protection of the NIS as well as being questioned – as is standard procedure for defectors.
Following the defection, North Korean state media claimed one of its British-based diplomats had fled after committing financial crimes and embezzling embassy funds during his tenure as second in command.
Lee was reported by South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo as saying that this was not the case, and that the South had obtained evidence refuting the North Korean claims.
“He had decided to defect to South Korea long ago because of the growing disappointment towards Kim Jong Un’s oppression, and the North Koreans who are living as slaves,” Lee was quoted as saying in the Choson Ilbo report.
Lee reportedly added that Thae had images of documents related to financial activities at the North Korean embassy in the UK, which proved his innocence regarding embezzlement claims.
According to local press, Thae also vowed to become involved in public activities related to inter-Korean affairs and reunification.
While leaving the protection of the NIS following a period of questioning, Thae will likely remain under tight security while in the South.
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