October 06, 2016 10:17
A North Korean diplomat stationed in Beijing has defected to South Korea with his family.
A source in China on Wednesday said the diplomat was responsible for procuring medical supplies for a clinic in Pyongyang that caters to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his family.
The diplomat and his family escaped from the North Korean Embassy in Beijing late last month. He previously worked at a health research center for the Kim family in North Korea.
One former North Korean diplomat said the medicines for Kim Jong-un are bought directly by an official dispatched from the secretary general's office.
Another source said the diplomat has family in Japan, and there had been rumors that he considered defecting to the island country.
North Korean diplomatic missions have been put on alert following the defection in July of Thae Yong-ho, a senior diplomat in London. Sources said the North tried to stop the problem from escalating by confiscating diplomats' passports, but the latest defection shows there are still holes in surveillance.
The most telling aspect is that the defection took place at the embassy in Beijing, far and away the most important of the North's diplomatic missions, pointing to serious disaffection among the elite.
One former North Korean diplomat said, "If the diplomat was responsible for providing medical supplies to Pyongyang, he would have been inundated with requests. He may have become disillusioned because he either wasn't paid on time or faced repeated pressure to send medical supplies as unpaid bills piled up."
As international sanctions put a chokehold on the North's money supply, the diplomat may have been forced to send home more cash as well.
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