Italy Confirms N.Korean Diplomat's Daughter Was Abducted

  • By Shon Jin-seok, Roh Suk-jo

    February 22, 2019 10:07

    The Italian government on Wednesday confirmed that the teenage daughter of acting North Korean Ambassador to Italy Jo Song-gil, who disappeared with his family last November, has been taken back to North Korea.

    Italian political leaders said it was clearly an abduction and the North should be held to account.

    In a statement, Italy's Foreign Ministry quoted the North Korean government as claiming in a note on Dec. 5 last year that Jo and his wife had left the embassy on Nov. 10, and that their 17-year-old daughter, "having expressed the wish to return to her country to stay with her grandparents, had returned there on [Nov. 14]... accompanied by some of the female staff of the embassy."

    In a Facebook comment, Italy's Deputy Foreign Minister Manlio di Stefano said if she was abducted on Italian soil it would be "a case of unprecedented seriousness" and "those responsible for this will pay." He added Italy should have protected her and she may be being tortured by one of the worst regimes in the world.

    But former Italian Senator Antonio Razzi, who was close to Jo, told local reporters that the parents abandoned the girl because she is disabled and it would be difficult to go into hiding with her. "Those two wretches left their daughter alone. She is a child and suffers from a disability," Razzi told Italy's Adnkronos news agency. "It is normal that she was sent back to her grandparents."

    The South Korean government has been keeping mum about the case and also seems to have been strangely passive after Jo's disappearance. The National Intelligence Service at the time only said that Jo had not made contact with South Korean authorities. This sparked speculation that Seoul had sent an indirect message to Jo not to come to South Korea at a time of warming relations with the North.

    The news of the daughter's repatriation was broken by Thae Yong-ho, the former No. 2 at the North Korean Embassy in London who defected in 2016.

    "Seoul is checking the facts now," a government source here said. "It's hard to tell how the government will react."

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