A North Korea top diplomat has reportedly gone into hiding with his wife, said a South Korean MP on Thursday at a closed-door meeting after South Korean newspaper, JoongAng Ilbo daily, reported that acting ambassador to Italy, Jo Song Gil, was seeking asylum in the West.
Jo disappeared with his wife in November 2018, said South Korean lawmaker Kim Min-ki.
Giulia Pompili, an Italian journalist, tweeted a picture of who appears to be Jo at the North Korean embassy in Italy in April 2018.
Citing a diplomatic source the JoongAng report said that Jo had applied for asylum in an unidentified Western country and was “in a safe place” with his family under the protection of the Italian government. However, his whereabouts remain unknown. The defection bid was still unclear.
Jo, 48, was named acting ambassador in Rome in October 2017 after Italy expelled the then ambassador Mun Jong Nam in protest at a nuclear test by North Korea, which violated United Nation resolutions.
If his defection is confirmed, Jo would join a list of senior diplomats who have tried to stay outside of North Korea.
The last one to do so was former deputy ambassador to the UK, Thae Yong Ho, who defected with his family to South Korea in August 2016.