North Korea says defector diplomat was on the run from criminal charges

Posted on : 2016-08-22 17:34 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
State media report is North Korea’s first acknowledgment of Thae’s defection; no word yet from government
Thae Yong-ho
Thae Yong-ho

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Aug. 20 that a minister-level official who defected to South Korea from the North Korean embassy in London had “fled with his family fearing legal punishment after his illegal acts were exposed.”

The arrival of official Thae Yong-ho and his family was announced by the South Korean government on Aug. 17.

“The puppet gang [South Korean government] has even resorted to bringing in human garbage to use in scheming propaganda against the republic [North Korea] and fratricidal antagonism,” the KCNA said in a commentary titled “A New Scheme in Fratricidal Antagonism.”

An official with the South Korean Ministry of Unification said on Aug. 21 that the claims were “absurd charges that are not even worth commenting on.”

The KCNA commentary was the first public response from the North Korean media in the four days since Seoul officially announced Thae‘s arrival in the South. No response has yet been given by the North Korean government.

According to the KCNA, Thae had “received a summons order in June for a criminal investigation for embezzling large amounts of state funds, selling state secrets, and even committing rape against a minor.”

“On July 12, the [North Korean] Central Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a decision to launch an investigation into the deliberate leaking of secrets, embezzlement of state assets, and sexual intercourse with a minor this creature committed,” it added.

The KCNA denounced Thae in particularly harsh terms, referring to him as a “fugitive” and “human garbage without even the most rudimentary loyalty or the slightly bit of conscience or ethics a human being should possess.”

The piece also strenuously denied reports by some news outlets that Thae was a (North) Korean Workers’ Party “cell” at the embassy and the son of Thae Byong-ryol, a People’s Army general who served as an anti-Japanese partisan.

“The South Korean puppets have told ridiculous lies that the fugitive worked for the party at the embassy [in London] and was the son of an anti-Japanese fighter,” it continued. “They are working endlessly to raise their filthy ransom for a fugitive without a shred of value.”

The piece further hinted at Seoul and Pyongyang waging a tense diplomatic battle with the United Kingdom prior to Thae leaving for South Korea.

“Soon after this incident occurred, we notified the United Kingdom of the criminal acts perpetrated by the fugitive and asked that they turn the criminal over for questioning,” it said.

“In casting aside even the most rudimentary faith, the United Kingdom will only succeed in exacerbating what are already very complicated North-South relations.”

By Lee Je-hun, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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