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Comfort, protection likely await North Korean defector

Friday, August 19, 2016 - 01:33

The most senior North Korean diplomat to flee to the South, Thae Yong Ho, is likely to have round-the-clock protection and make a comfortable living at a think-tank run by Seoul's intelligence service, say elite defectors who followed a similar path. Natasha Howitt reports.

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This man is the most senior North Korean diplomat ever to defect to the South. The former North Korean deputy ambassador to the UK, Thae Yong Ho, is now safely in Seoul with his family. His defection is an embarrassing blow to North Korea's isolated regime. But the repercussions don't look too worrying for Thae. Other elite defectors say round-the-clock protection and a comfortable job at a think-tank now await. Defector Kim Kwang-jin used to work for a North Korean insurance firm in Singapore. Now, he works at the Institute for National Security Strategy, run by South Korea's spy agency NIS. South Korea's government offers jobs to some defectors, but not all, he says. Of the roughly 27,000 North Koreans who have fled the North, most struggle to fit in, often economically marginalised. It also takes months for them to be screened. But the well-connected are treated as a valuable resource, able to shed light on a secretive neighbour. Interrogation can take just 24 hours, Kim says. Choi Ju-hwal was a colonel in the North Korean army before defecting. He says it is most likely Thae will work for the same institute as Kim. Still, there are security concerns. Many defectors change their names and stay away from the spotlight. Defections have been on the rise this year, after a brief decline since leader Kim Jong Un took to power in 2011.

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Comfort, protection likely await North Korean defector

Friday, August 19, 2016 - 01:33