The North Korea flag and the silhouette of a soldier's military salute

‘Human Scum!’ Has North Korea’s Ambassador to Italy Defected?

Mystery shrouds the current situation of North Korea’s acting ambassador to Italy, Jo Song Gil.

South Korea’s spy agency says that Jo went into hiding with his wife in early November. Though where they are now and what they are planning, are questions likely costing North Korean intelligence agents some lost sleep.

According to the AP, South Korean lawmaker Kim Min-ki says an official from Seoul’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) mentioned the possible defection during a closed-door briefing yesterday.

Kim Min-ki wouldn’t comment on whether the official provided details about Jo’s current location or if the ambassador indeed plans to defect to South Korea.

Accompanied by his wife, Jo left his diplomatic residence only weeks before the end of his term.

South Korean media reported that Jo is seeking asylum in the West and is currently under the protection of the Italian government. But this report has not been confirmed. And North Korean officials remain mum on Jo’s status.

The AP reports that an Italian Foreign Ministry official stated Kim Min-ki had not requested asylum from Italy and that he no longer held diplomatic status.

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Thae Yong Ho labelled ‘human scum’

It’s been more than two years since a senior North Korean diplomat defected. In 2016, Thae Yong Ho fled to South Korea. Thae had previously served as a minister at the North Korean Embassy in London.

At the time, North Korea’s state-run media labelled Thae ‘human scum’. Which could well be the label soon applied to Kim Min-ki.

The two men are not alone in their desire to live outside of their oppressive, impoverished home nation. The South Korean government estimates some 30,000 North Koreans have fled since the Korean War saw the nation divided in two in 1953.

Of course, with open borders and the freedom to travel, we assume that number would be far higher.

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Bernd Struben

Bernd Struben

Bernd Struben is the lead editor at The Australian Tribune. Bernd makes use of his extensive network to bring you the top stories you need to know about each day. Stories the mainstream may miss. Or bury somewhere you’re unlikely to ever read them. Bernd studied aerospace engineering and journalism at the University of Michigan, before graduating with a degree in economics. Over the past two decades he’s worked in media, management, and finance in the US, the Caribbean, Europe, and Australia. His other role, as the editor of the Port Phillip Insider, puts him in a unique position to read Australia’s most exclusive financial advice. Some of which he shares with readers of The Australian Tribune for free.
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