Korean diplomat defects to S. Korea

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A former North Korean diplomat in Kuwait is reportedly staying in South Korea after entering the country in 2019.

He was reported by officials from the National Intelligence Service that the diplomat arrived in South Korea in September 2019 with his wife and at least one child, stated Ha Tae-keung, a conservative opposition lawmaker and an executive secretary of the National Assembly's intelligence committee. The Yonhap news agency confirmed Ryu had defected but said it could not confirm the timing.

For most North Koreans, it means either a risky escape across the highly fortified border to the South, or trying to cross over the border to China from where they risk being sent back to the North.

The reports said he wanted to ensure a better future for his children.

Mr Tae Yong-ho, another high-profile defector who fled his post as North Korea's deputy ambassador to Britain in 2016 and was elected a South Korean opposition MP past year, described Mr Ryu as part of Pyongyang's "core elite".

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Tae also said that Ryu is also the son-in-law of Jon Il-chun, the person who was formerly in charge of overseeing a Worker's Party bureau "responsible for managing the ruling Kim family's secret coffers, dubbed Room 39", as Reuters put it.

Ryu reportedly entered South Korea in September 2019, about two months after former North Korean ambassador to Italy Jo Song-gil is known to have entered South Korea.

But he added: “No matter how privileged your life is in North Korea, your mind changes when you go overseas and draw comparisons.”.

The North has tightened border security as part of its defences against the coronavirus, and the number of arrivals to the South plummeted previous year.

A couple of weeks ago, North Korea organised a rare party congress which ended with its leader Kim Jong-un adopting a resolution to bolster the country's "nuclear deterrent".

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