20:39 GMT +320 July 2019
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    In a video grab created on August 17, 2016 taken from footage recorded by AFPTV on November 3, 2014 deputy ambassador at the North Korean embassy in London, Thae Yong-ho, stands in front of an artwork during a photocall to view an exhibition of North Korean art at the North Korean embassy in west London

    Seoul Says North Korea May Attempt Assassinations After Top Diplomat Defects

    © AFP 2019 / KATIE SCHUBAUBR / AFPTV
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    North Korea may attempt to perform assassinations and abductions, following the defection of Pyongyang’s high ranking diplomat, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry official.

    The defection of Thae Yong-ho, the No. 2 man at the North Korean Embassy in London, is posing a threat to South Korean citizens, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry.

    "There is a considerable chance that the North confronted with difficulties may implement some sort of provocation to help rally its people and consolidate the regime's hold on power," the official warning say.

    According to unnamed Ministry official, possible provocations may include assassination or abduction attempts. He recalled an attempt to assassinate Hwang Jang-Yop, the North's chief ideologue and former tutor to previous leader Kim Jong-Il, who defected to the South in 1997.

    "Considering (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-Un's character, it is very dangerous," the official told reporters.

    Earlier, Kim Jong-Un had dispatched squads to the Chinese border "to harm South Koreans" following the defection in April of a group of North Korean overseas restaurant workers, the official told reporters.

    That was the largest group defection from North Korea in history. North Korean overseas workers are reportedly "hand-picked" from families that are considered "loyal", so the defection of 12 waitresses and their manager has put Pyongyang in an uncomfortable position. North Korea claims the workers were abducted and seeks to "rescue" them and bring them back.

    Their explanations of Thae Yong-ho's defection are also different. According to South Korea, he acted out of disgust for the Pyongyang regime, admiration for South Korea's free and democratic system and concerns for his family's future. North Korean officials, however, insist that Hwang Jang-Yop sought to avoid criminal punishment in his home country for sexual abuse of minors and embezzlement of state funds.

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    Tags:
    Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), abduction, defection, assassination, Thae Yong-ho, South Korea
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