01/04/2019, 16.47
NORTH KOREA – ITALY
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North Korean diplomat was on his way out, Italian diplomatic sources say

The mystery of Jo Song-gil’s disappearance deepens. North Korea’s charge d'affaires was already set to leave his post in November. He came in May 2015. For observers, Italy is trying to avoid tensions with North Korea. Warmongers threaten peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – Jo Song-gil, North Korea’s 48-year-old charge d'affaires (pictured) “was replaced in such function by Mr Kim Chon" on 20 November, an official at the Italian Embassy in Seoul told the Yonhap news agency.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service informed South Korean lawmakers of the disappearance of the North Korean diplomat in a closed-door briefing, this according to Rep Kim Min-ki of the ruling Democratic Party.

A newspaper reported that Jo was seeking asylum in a third country and that Italy was holding the diplomat and is family in a safe place.

Italy’s Foreign Ministry disputed the information, saying that no North Korean official had requested asylum. Instead, it stated that it had been informed of staff changes via diplomatic channels.

South Korea's presidential office said instead that it had no information about the affair.

Jo was posted to Italy in May 2015 as First Secretary, and was set to leave in November 2018.

In 2017, the Italian government expelled North Korea’s ambassador Mun Jong-nam following that country’s sixth nuclear test. On 9 October 2017, Jo was appointed charge d'affaires, the highest diplomatic post in the absence of an ambassador.

Whilst the mystery surrounding Jo's disappearance grows, for some observers the low-key approach of the Italian government is based on a desire not to increase tension with North Korea. This explains why the news was leaked by South Korean sources, about a month after the escape.

By contrast, other powers are interested in destabilising the peace process in the Korean Peninsula, which is a major market for weapons manufacturers.

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