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Pro-North Korea source claims Seoul coerced diplomat to defect

The claims run contrary to South Korean statements and to accounts of deteriorating living conditions for North Korean officials.

By Elizabeth Shim
Pro-North Korea source claims Seoul coerced diplomat to defect
A general view of the North Korean Embassy in London. An unofficial spokesman for Pyongyang says Thae Yong Ho, a diplomat at the embassy, defected because of South Korean pressure. Photo by Yonhap News Agency

SEOUL, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- An unofficial North Korea spokesman in Japan claims senior diplomat Thae Yong Ho defected because of pressure and bribes from South Korea.

Kim Myong Chol, executive director of The Center for North Korea-U.S. Peace, told The Telegraph that Thae could not have left the embassy of his own free will.

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"This is a typical operation of the South Korean intelligence services and part of a plot to bring down North Korea," Kim said.

Bribes and coercion from Seoul's spy agency may have played a role, and Kim added South Korean President Park Geun-hye is "trying to seduce North Korean diplomats around the world with money or women."

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Kim also claimed Seoul may have abducted Thae's children first, holding them hostage, until the North Korean diplomat acquiesced to South Korean pressure to defect.

Kim's unofficial account runs contrary to statements from Seoul.

A unification ministry spokesman had said earlier this week Thae left because he felt a sense of "disgust" with the Kim Jong Un regime.

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Another South Korean official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told local news network Channel A Thae's defection delivered a "heart-attack level" shock to the North Korean diplomatic community.

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But dozens of other North Korean missions have experienced defections by lower-ranking diplomats, according to the report.

The unidentified official said Pyongyang's embassy in London is the most important mission overseas for North Korea since the North Korean mission to the United Nations in New York is not a de facto embassy.

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A source familiar with conditions at North Korean embassies abroad told Yonhap on Friday the salaries and benefits for diplomats overseas are paltry, and by the living standards of the local community in countries like Britain, many North Korean officials are living near the poverty line.

Some North Korean diplomats residing in European countries have applied for healthcare benefits with their host governments, and they sometimes request funds from Korean American organizations for help with paying hospital fees, the source said.

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