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Pyongyang orders diplomats' children back home: spy agency

2016/08/23 14:12

SEOUL, Aug. 23 (Yonhap) -- North Korea recently ordered the children of its diplomats stationed overseas to return home, intelligence sources said Tuesday, adding that this likely didn't lead to the latest defection of a high-ranking Britain-based official and his family.

According to the sources, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) told a closed door session of parliament's intelligence committee that Pyongyang has ordered all diplomats' children aged 25 and above to return home, in an apparent bid to block potential defections by its officials.

The remark is significant as Thae Yong-ho, who served as a minister at North Korea's embassy in London, arrived in South Korea late last month, which marked a rare case of a senior Pyongyang diplomat escaping the country.

"But it is believed that the order did not directly cause the defection of Thae," a parliamentary source said. "It is illogical to say that such a high-ranking official (as Thae) would have made the decision just because of his children."

   The diplomat was the No. 2 man at the diplomatic mission, and he had been assigned to London for 10 years.

"It is more logical to say that Thae had been seeking a chance to leave for some time," the source added.

The NIS also reportedly said Thae only has two sons, ruling out speculation that he left a daughter behind in Pyongyang.

In response to the suspicion that Thae is holding a significant amount of North Korean funds, the spy agency said Thae was not in a position to handle Pyongyang's money.

The NIS added that Thae is not the son of the late four-star general Thae Pyong-ryol who actively took part in the anti-Japanese campaign, led by North Korea's late founder Kim Il-sung. His wife, however, came from a family that has close ties with the Kim clan, it added.

The spy agency also said the speculation that another North Korean official in charge of the regime's funds in Europe has disappeared is groundless, although it is making efforts to determine where the rumors came from.

Thae Yong-ho (Yonhap) Thae Yong-ho (Yonhap)

colin@yna.co.kr

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