July 27, 2021

High-ranking North Korean intelligence officer defects to South Korea

High-ranking North Korean intelligence officer defects to South Korea

SEOUL: South Korea’s Defence Ministry confirmed Monday (Apr 11) that a high-ranking North Korean military intelligence officer has defected to South Korea.

“Yes, that is true,” Moon Sang-gyun, the spokesman for the Defence Ministry, told reporters at a briefing when asked if an earlier report by Yonhap news agency on the defection was true. He said he could not give further details.

Citing an unnamed source, Yonhap had reported that a senior North Korean colonel defected in 2015 after working at North Korea’s bureau tasked with carrying out espionage missions against the South.

This defection comes after the Unification Ministry said a group of 13 North Koreans who worked at a North Korean restaurant overseas had defected en masse to South Korea. The ministry said the workers, 12 women and a man who managed the restaurant, had arrived in South Korea last Thursday.

The Unification Ministry spokesman, Jeong Joon-hee, said there was a shared wish among the 13 workers to defect to South Korea and nobody was resistant to this idea. He said the workers had been under pressure from Pyongyang to send cash earned from the restaurant back home.

He would not say in which country the restaurant was located, citing concerns about diplomatic relations.

Business has reportedly slowed at overseas North Korean restaurants after the South Korean government urged its citizens not to patronise them following imposed new sanctions against Pyongyang in March, in step with harsher sanctions enforced by the UN Security Council.

Officials said there could be more defections by North Koreans in the following months.