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N.K. spy agency official defected to S. Korea last year: source

2016/10/12 10:12

SEOUL, Oct. 12 (Yonhap) -- A senior official at North Korea's spy agency defected to South Korea last year, a source said Wednesday, pointing to a rise in defections by North Korean elites disillusioned with the repressive regime.

An unidentified official who worked for the Ministry of State Security escaped to the South last year, the source familiar with Pyongyang's affairs said, in an unusual defection by a North Korean in charge of gathering intelligence and cracking down on ordinary people.

More North Korean elites, including diplomats, have deserted their country in search of freedom, which Seoul says points to signs of cracks in the North's regime.

Pyongyang banished its vice foreign minister Kung Sok-ung to a cooperative farm as punishment after the North's leader Kim Jong-un became angry as several North Korean diplomats escaped to South Korea, according to a report by the JoongAng Ilbo.

Kung, a veteran diplomat, was banished to a rural farm in an unidentified area in the wake of Thae Yong-ho's high-profile defection to South Korea, the daily said. Thae was the No. 2 man at North Korea's embassy in London.

Thae defected to Seoul with his family in late July, making him one of the highest-ranking North Korean officials to arrive in the South.

North Korea's leader is believed to have executed more than 100 state, party and military officials to consolidate power.

In the face of international sanctions, North Korean officials working abroad, including diplomats, are under growing pressure to repatriate hard currency to the regime, experts said.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr

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