Nov. 21 (UPI) -- A North Korean man who once held office in a regional city was arrested after attempting to escape, according to sources in the country.
Radio Free Asia reported this week the man, a retiree in his 60s, was the former vice chairman of the people's committee of Hyesan City in Yanggang Province.
The man had retired in October and was arrested and detained on Nov. 3. He is being charged with criticizing the "highest dignity" of the country, a reference to leader Kim Jong Un.
"The retired cadre had said the highest leader had inspected Samjiyon County, Yanggang Province, three times, but did not take care of the lives of the people, while calling for national construction," RFA's source in Yanggang Province said.
The man was arrested after confiding to a colleague who he had deemed to be trustworthy.
"The security officer who he trusted was someone who had been instructed by the security agency to report on the ideology of the retired cadre," RFA's source said, adding the informant took the man out for drinks to extract the confession.
The defendant attempted to defect after realizing he had been caught airing anti-Kim views.
It is unclear whether the man was planning to defect to South Korea, or escape to China, where North Koreans are not recognized as refugees.
South Korea recently changed its resettlement laws for North Korean refugees, providing them greater protection even as it engages Pyongyang.
Seoul Pyongyang News reported defectors who apply for asylum after a one-year deadline upon resettlement would still qualify for defector status.
More than 200 North Koreans were in limbo because of past laws, according to the report.
The new law now requires defectors to apply for asylum within three years upon arriving in the South.