08/18/2016, 16.49
KOREA
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One of Kim Il-sung’s “grandchildren” asks for political asylum in South Korea

Thae Yong-ho was number two at the North Korean embassy in London. Now he is in Seoul. It is unclear whether he will remain in the peninsula or move to a "third country". He is the highest-ranking political refugee to have abandoned the regime in Pyongyang. He and his wife are from elite North Korean political families. The diplomat’s father was General Thae, a hero in the war against the Japanese.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – The South Korean government confirmed that North Korea’s deputy ambassador in London, Thae Yong Ho, had arrived with his family in South Korea. He had been in Britain for ten years.

It is not clear why he fled, but a South Korean government source said that Thae defected to the South due to disgust with the regime, his admiration for South Korea’s free system, and for the future of his family,

Among his many responsibilities, Thae was well-known to the British press, acting as the Embassy’s main point of contact for British correspondents travelling to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

His measured tone was in contrast to the bombastic rhetoric often used north Korean propaganda.

During his stay in the United Kingdom, he spoke at events organised by the British Communist Party where he would make impassioned speeches in defence of North Korea.

The diplomat’s 19-year-old Thae Kum-Hyok ended high school on 22 July. Some his friends said that he had been due to attend Imperial College London in autumn, reading maths and computer science.

This is the greatest escape since the Korean Peninsula was divided. The diplomat is in fact a member of North Korea’s ruling inner circle, directly connected to the country’s founder, Kim Il-sung, grandfather of the current dictator.

His father was Thae Pyong-Ryol, a four-star general and hero of the war against Japan. A close ally of North Korea's first president, he was buried with full honors in 1997 after reaching the top ranks in Korean People's Army (KPA).

Even the diplomat’s wife, O Hye-son, is a “grandchild” of the revolution. Her grandfather O Peak-ryong took part in anti-Japanese guerrilla activities. Her father, O Kum-chol, was deputy chief of the KPA General Staff.

North Korea’s political, economic and military leaders all descend from allies of Kim Il-sung, and are called "grandchildren" to distinguish them from the “fathers” who instead served under the late Kim Jong-il.

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