North Korean diplomat latest to defect to South Korea, lawmaker says

SEOUL – North Korea’s acting ambassador to Kuwait has relocated to South Korea, the latest in a series of high-profile escape attempts from the isolated country, a South Korean lawmaker said Monday.

Ryu Hyun Woo had headed the North Korean embassy in Kuwait since former Ambassador So Chang Sik was expelled under a 2017 United States resolution attempting to shut down the country’s overseas diplomatic missions.

Ryu relocated to South Korea last September, according to Tae Yong Ho, who was North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the UK before settling in the south in 2016 and being elected lawmaker last year.

Kuwait had been an important source of foreign exchange for Pyongyang, sending thousands of workers there, mainly for construction projects.

Tae said Ryu is also the son-in-law of Jon Il Chun, who once oversaw a Labor Party bureau responsible for managing the secret coffers of the ruling Kim family.

The National Secret Service declined to comment.

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Ryu’s overflow could be a sign that the North Korean elite, which sustains leader Kim Jong Un’s power base, has slowly but steadily drifted away from him, Tae said.

Ryu fled a few months after Jo Song Gil, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to Italy, disappeared from the embassy with his wife and reappeared in South Korea.

Tae told Reuters that the knowledge and experience of the outside world he had gained as a diplomat fueled his family’s disillusionment, and he decided to flee to give his children “freedom” and urged other officials to do so Example to follow.

“I want to tell my colleagues around the world and the North Korean elite that there is an alternative to North Korea and the door is open,” Tae said in an interview at the recent Reuters Next conference.

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