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(LEAD) Embassy: N. Korea replaced its top diplomat in Rome in late November

All Headlines 11:24 January 04, 2019

(ATTN: CORRECTS date in 3rd para)

SEOUL, Jan. 4 (Yonhap) -- Italy's diplomatic authorities confirmed Friday that North Korea recently replaced its top envoy in Rome, while remaining guarded about whether it's linked with a reported asylum bid by a North Korean diplomat.

An official at the Italian Embassy in Seoul said Jo Song-gil had served as the chargés d'affaires of the North's diplomatic mission there since Oct. 9, 2017.

He "was replaced in such function by Mr. Kim Chon" as of Nov. 20 last year, the official told Yonhap News Agency.

It remains unclear whether Kim had already been working at the embassy or was newly dispatched.

Jo disappeared in early November with his family after leaving the embassy, a South Korean lawmaker said Thursday after being briefed by the country's state intelligence agency on the matter.

Earlier in the day, a Seoul-based newspaper reported that Jo is seeking asylum in a Western nation. He was nearing the end of his stint in Rome when he vanished.

lcd@yna.co.kr

(END)

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