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Ex-N.K. diplomat urges Seoul's efforts for former colleague's defection to S. Korea

All Headlines 13:54 January 09, 2019

SEOUL, Jan. 9 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean diplomat-turned-defector on Wednesday urged South Korea to make diplomatic efforts to help one of his former communist colleagues, believed to be hiding in Italy in an asylum bid, defect to Seoul if he wants to.

Thae Yong-ho, who defected to the South in 2016 while serving as deputy ambassador at the North's embassy in London, made the appeal during a press conference to launch a group calling for the missing North Korean diplomat, Jo Song-gil, to come to Seoul.

Jo, the charge d'affaires of the North's Embassy in Rome, has been unaccounted for since early November ahead of the planned end of his assignment in Italy later that month. He is widely believed to be hiding in Italy to seek asylum in a third country.

"We demand that the South Korean government ask the Italian counterpart to guarantee the security of Jo and his family, and check whether they are willing to come to South Korea under a condition where free decision-making is assured," he said.

He said the Italian government should make sure that Jo and his family can go to any country they want.

In an open letter to his former colleague, Thae has also urged Jo to come to South Korea, saying that it is an "obligation, not a choice," for North Korean diplomats like him and Jo to come to South Korea.

Jo was dispatched to Italy in May 2015 and has run the North's mission there since Italy expelled Ambassador Mun Jong-nam in October 2017 following the North's sixth nuclear test in September that year.

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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