A ranking North Korean embassy official in Beijing has defected, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency has said, while a separate report suggested two embassy staff had sought asylum with the Japanese mission in the Chinese capital.
If confirmed, it would mark the latest in a recent series of high-profile North Korean defections that some observers see as a sign of growing instability within the leadership in Pyongyang.
Yonhap, quoting an anonymous source “familiar with Pyongyang affairs”, said the official – stationed in the Beijing embassy but attached to the North Korean health ministry – had disappeared with his family in late September. The source said the official was responsible for sourcing medical supplies for a clinic in Pyongyang that caters to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and his family.
In a separate report, the South Korean daily, JoongAng Ilbo, said two senior staffers at the North Korean embassy in Beijing had asked for asylum in Japan.