BREAKING NEWS Train derailed in Albert Lea, residents asked to shelter in place Full Story

North Korean defectors voice concern for Pyongyang's missing Italy envoy

A group of prominent North Korean defectors called on the Italian and South Korean governments to provide pr...

Posted: Jan 9, 2019 10:58 AM
Updated: Jan 9, 2019 10:58 AM

A group of prominent North Korean defectors called on the Italian and South Korean governments to provide protection for Pyongyang's former envoy to Italy Wednesday, as his whereabouts remain unknown.

Jo Song Gil, Pyongyang's chargé d'affaires in Rome, disappeared along with his wife in early November. His term was due to expire that month.

Asia

Continents and regions

East Asia

North Korea

Pyongyang

Defection and defectors

Europe

International relations

International relations and national security

Italy

North Korea nuclear development

Southern Europe

Unrest, conflicts and war

South Korea

Political Figures - Intl

Seoul

Thae Yong Ho

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Government departments and authorities

Immigration

Immigration, citizenship and displacement

Political asylum

State departments and diplomatic services

Italy has been without a North Korean ambassador since Pyongyang's former envoy was expelled in 2017, following the country's sixth nuclear test. Jo joined the embassy in May 2015 as the third secretary, according to South Korean lawmakers.

According to unconfirmed reports in the South Korean press, Jo has defected and is seeking asylum in the West.

"Jo Song Gil and his family have the freedom to choose their place of asylum, and since they are the natural Korean citizens, they deserve the right to be protected by the (South) Korean government," Thae Yong-ho, Pyongyang's former deputy envoy to the United Kingdom who defected in 2016, said Wednesday at a press conference in Seoul.

"We call upon the Italian government to provide Jo Song Gil and his family all the conditions needed to go to the country of their choice, in accordance with international law and the spirit of humanity. In the case that Jo Song Gil and his family want to come to Korea, we urge the Korean government to take a proactive stance in providing safe journey to Korea."

Thae was joined by several prominent former politicians and critics of North Korea, including Park Kwan-yong, a former speaker of the South Korean National Assembly under the conservative, anti-Pyongyang administration of President Park Geun-hye.

Difficult choice

Conservative and hard-right figures in South Korea have criticized the government of President Moon Jae-in for allegedly ignoring human rights in his push for the denuclearization of North Korea.

"South Korea needs to show that it is willing to embrace North Koreans, but the current situation doesn't seem to do that," Thae said.

"Neither the South Korean government or its citizens express their intention to rescue Jo and his family after their defection, and I'm saddened by the current situation."

Thae -- one of the highest-ranking North Korean officials to defect to the South in recent years -- said it was impossible for diplomats to discuss their intentions to seek asylum with anyone else beforehand.

"There is no way of knowing who is a spy and who is reliable. It is unthinkable to discuss defection in advance with anyone," he said.

He added that while he was unaware of Jo's whereabouts, "I know he needs to be protected wherever he is."

"I'm not happy about the current attitude of the South Korean government. I want the government to publicly say that it is ready to take Jo if he wants to come to South Korea," Thae said. "The current attitude of denying any knowledge is not helpful."

For his own case, Thae said a desire to defect came about partly for the sake of his children and their education.

"The children having lived overseas know what human rights is and what rights you can have in the Western world," he said.

Fellow defectors

Wednesday marks the second public attempt by Thae and other defectors to reach Jo.

In an open letter to the former diplomat last week, Thae said he hoped that if Jo came to Seoul, "more of our colleagues will follow after us and come to Seoul, and then the unification will happen on its own."

"When you come to South Korea, you do not have to worry about personal safety. To protect me, several security guards stick closely and guard me every day," Thae wrote. "The country also provides rental housing and resettlement funds until you safely settle down."

There are around 30,000 North Korean defectors and refugees registered with the South Korean government.

While many defectors integrate into South Korean society and do not take part in politics, a substantial minority work to encourage and assist others to leave the North, and some are also involved in anti-Pyongyang activities and propaganda organizations, several of which were represented at the press conference Wednesday.

Such groups have been criticized in the past for undermining the peace process and antagonizing Pyongyang, particularly those which seek to transmit anti-regime propaganda into the North. For their part, many defector groups criticize the South Korean government for downplaying human rights concerns in its communications with North Korean officials.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 592750

Reported Deaths: 7376
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1226641731
Ramsey51369875
Dakota45906452
Anoka41713438
Washington26899283
Stearns22238222
St. Louis17758304
Scott17275124
Wright16034140
Olmsted1324298
Sherburne1170887
Carver1049145
Clay815792
Rice8056107
Blue Earth750441
Crow Wing665089
Kandiyohi655783
Chisago599751
Otter Tail574978
Benton570297
Goodhue478072
Douglas467875
Mower465732
Winona454550
Itasca437556
McLeod423659
Isanti421364
Morrison419260
Nobles407748
Beltrami395559
Steele388315
Polk384168
Becker380253
Lyon360651
Carlton345254
Freeborn341729
Pine328622
Nicollet326143
Brown305440
Mille Lacs304553
Le Sueur291723
Todd282132
Cass272828
Meeker256340
Waseca236222
Martin230632
Roseau209019
Wabasha20533
Hubbard189341
Dodge18493
Renville180243
Redwood174337
Houston171816
Cottonwood164923
Fillmore156310
Wadena155922
Pennington153619
Faribault152319
Chippewa152238
Kanabec144626
Sibley143510
Aitkin134936
Watonwan13279
Rock128219
Jackson121812
Pipestone115426
Yellow Medicine114120
Pope11026
Murray10639
Swift105218
Stevens91311
Marshall88117
Clearwater86816
Koochiching83315
Wilkin81512
Lake81119
Lac qui Parle75322
Big Stone6004
Lincoln5813
Grant5768
Mahnomen5499
Norman5399
Unassigned50093
Kittson48622
Red Lake3967
Traverse3705
Lake of the Woods3253
Cook1640

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 367061

Reported Deaths: 5938
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57642625
Linn20869335
Scott20044241
Black Hawk15813308
Woodbury15132228
Johnson1448383
Dubuque13374208
Dallas1118298
Pottawattamie11122168
Story1061748
Warren577988
Clinton555693
Cerro Gordo540389
Sioux514474
Webster512293
Marshall483075
Muscatine481199
Des Moines457166
Wapello4301122
Buena Vista424840
Jasper419272
Plymouth401280
Lee375855
Marion362575
Jones298957
Henry291837
Carroll285952
Bremer284560
Crawford266140
Boone264834
Benton256655
Washington253750
Dickinson248443
Mahaska230351
Jackson222142
Clay215625
Kossuth215364
Tama209771
Delaware209641
Winneshiek196934
Page192722
Buchanan191332
Cedar190023
Hardin185643
Fayette185141
Wright184637
Hamilton179949
Harrison179673
Clayton169556
Butler164934
Madison162319
Mills162222
Floyd160942
Cherokee158938
Lyon158041
Poweshiek154734
Allamakee151451
Iowa148824
Hancock148234
Winnebago142431
Calhoun138513
Cass138554
Grundy136333
Emmet134340
Jefferson132435
Shelby131037
Sac130319
Union128333
Louisa128149
Appanoose127949
Mitchell126342
Chickasaw124116
Guthrie121530
Franklin120521
Humboldt119126
Palo Alto112823
Howard104622
Montgomery103338
Clarke100124
Unassigned9740
Keokuk95931
Monroe95129
Ida90335
Adair86532
Pocahontas85522
Davis83024
Monona82730
Osceola78716
Greene77710
Lucas77223
Worth7478
Taylor66012
Fremont6229
Decatur6089
Ringgold55824
Van Buren55818
Wayne53923
Audubon51010
Adams3384
Rochester
Partly Cloudy
67° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 67°
Mason City
Partly Cloudy
65° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 65°
Albert Lea
Mostly Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 66°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 73°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: °
Warmer conditions for the weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events