Report: Ex-North Korean diplomat resigns from South Korean think tank

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  May 24, 2018 at 9:44 AM
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May 24 (UPI) -- A high-profile defector who recently published a book on the North Korean regime has resigned from his position at South Korea's Institute for National Security Strategy.

Thae Yong-ho, who fled Pyongyang's embassy in London with his family in 2016, is departing the state-run think tank following accusations from the North he was hampering diplomatic engagement on the peninsula.

Without referring to Thae by name, KCNA recently condemned the "South Korean authorities" for "presenting the world's human garbage on the grounds of the National Assembly," South Korea's parliament.

An INSS official told local news service Money Today the resignation came on Wednesday.

"The procedures for his dismissal are likely to conclude today," the official said.

The think tank operates under the direction of the National Intelligence Service, South Korea's spy agency.

While there has been speculation Thae was dismissed because of the controversy over his new book and remarks critical of Kim Jong Un, Money Today's source said Thae made the decision to leave.

"Minister Thae felt burdened by North Korean media's criticisms of him that extended to the name of our institute," the source said. "He also wanted to engage in a broader array of activities."

The source said Thae was looking to "freelance" online and offline as an analyst.

Thae's return to the public spotlight came at a time when North Korea has been planning a summit between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.

North Korea could be accelerating diplomatic engagement ahead of the meeting.

Japan's NHK and Kyodo News reported Thursday senior North Korean officials are in Beijing, as evidenced by the use of a VIP-only exit at Beijing's main international airport.

A Chinese state vehicle then transported the officials, covered under umbrellas, to Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, according to reports.

South Korean TV network MBC reported Thursday the North Koreans had applied a fresh layer of paint to their embassy compound in Singapore.

The North Korean leader stands to benefit from the summit.

Kim gains legitimacy and propaganda value from meeting with a sitting U.S. president, Frank Aum of the United States Institute of Peace told UPI this week.

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