N. Korean ex-diplomat urges Seoul to help Pyongyang’s missing envoy

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Seoul, Jan 9 (IANS) A former North Korean diplomat, who defected to the South in 2016, on Wednesday urged the government in Seoul to help a missing Pyongyang envoy in Italy who is believed to be seeking asylum in a third country.

Jo Song-gil, the charge d’affaires of the North’s embassy in Italy, and his family have not been seen since November last year.

Thae Yong-ho, who defected to the South when he was posted as the North’s deputy ambassador to London, was joined by other defectors, academicians, former politicians and human rights activists in urging the government to protect Jo as per the South Korean Constitution, Efe news reported.

“We demand that the South Korean government ask its Italian counterpart to guarantee the security of Jo and his family, and check whether they are willing to come to South Korea under a condition where free decision-making is assured,” Thae told reporters.

The Constitution of South Korea considers the entire Korean peninsula part of the national territory and recognizes all of its inhabitants as citizens of the Republic of Korea, the report said.

Thae insisted that the missing diplomat was free to choose where he wanted to seek shelter but urged him in an open letter to come to South Korea, saying it was an “obligation, not a choice”, for North Korean diplomats to come to the neighbouring country.

Jo, 48, had been in charge of the North Korean embassy since October 2017 after the Italian government expelled ambassador Mun Jung-nam following the North’s sixth nuclear test in September.

The whereabouts of Jo and his family are unknown since November beginning, weeks before his term in Italy was set to end. They are believed to be hiding in Italy and seeking asylum in a third country.

Rome denied on January 3 that Jo had filed an asylum request to stay in Italy.

–IANS

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