Highest-ranking North Korea diplomat defects to South ‘to protect his child’

North Korea’s deputy ambassador in London has defected to the South, according to officials in Seoul. Thae Yong-ho has apparently arrived with his family in Seoul, making him the highest-ranking diplomat ever to turn his back on the oppressive state. He had defected because of discontent with the regime and for the future of his child, the South’s Unification Ministry said. However, spokesman Jeong Joon-hee declined to give details on the timing of of Mr Thae’s arrival or his itinerary. “They are currently under government protection and relevant institutions are going ahead with necessary procedures as usual,” he added.

Awareness that the North Korean regime has reached its limit is spreading and the solidarity of its ruling class is weakening

Jeong Joon-hee, a spokesman at the South’s Unification Ministry

Defections are a source of bitter contention between the rival Koreas, and South Korea does not always make high-profile cases public. However, the number of defections by North Koreans to the South this year through July totalled 814, an annual increase of 15%, it has been reported. They include several diplomats, including one from Thailand. Pyongyang often accuses the South of kidnapping or enticing its citizens to defect.

If the people in this country, or in America, knew that there is a country in the world where there is a free education, free housing, free medical care, then they’d have second thoughts

Thae Yong-ho has clearly changed his views on North Korea since making these remarks recently