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N.K. leader orders tighter surveillance to prevent defection: source

2016/08/18 18:17

SEOUL, Aug. 18 (Yonhap) – North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has sent security agents overseas to monitor government officials and business personnel following the high-profile defection of a senior diplomat, a source familiar with the regime said Thursday.

The leader has also ordered the execution of those who failed to prevent the recent defections, claimed the source, who declined to be identified, adding anti-aircraft machine guns were used to kill the condemned. He said Kim has ordered North Korean diplomatic missions and overseas restaurants to root out even the slightest chance of people leaving their posts without permission.

"Kim has threatened an immediate pullout of overseas business operations that fail to perform," the source said, adding that he has ordered tighter crackdowns on North Koreans watching smuggled DVDs of South Korean dramas and other programs.

The North's latest reaction comes as more North Korean officials and overseas workers, viewed as having good social status in the communist country, have fled in the wake of tougher international sanctions.

Thae Yong-ho, a senior North Korean diplomat based in London, recently defected to South Korea with his family, making him one of the highest-level North Koreans to desert the repressive regime, South Korea's unification ministry said Wednesday.

The ministry said that Thae is believed to have deserted North Korea due to his disillusionment with the North's regime under the incumbent leader and aspiration for freedom. The diplomat may have also chosen to defect for a better future for his children.

His defection also came in the wake of the rare mass defection by North Koreans working at restaurants in foreign countries.

In April, a group of 13 North Koreans who worked at a Pyongyang-run restaurant in China defected to Seoul en masse. In June, three more North Korean restaurant employees working in China escaped to Seoul.

The source said that the North's leader has ordered the families of North Korean diplomats and overseas workers back to the country following Thae's defection.

The move appears to be aimed at using hostages to curb further defections, the observer added.

Since taking power in late 2011, the North's leader has been strengthening his reign of terror by killing numerous government and military officials, including his uncle Jang Song-thaek who was executed in 2013 for treason.