Top North Korean diplomat defects to South Korea

North Korea's London embassy is located on a residential street in Ealing, west London
North Korea’s London embassy is located on a residential street in Ealing, west London

A top North Korean diplomat who disappeared from the country’s embassy in London has defected to South Korea, officials in Seoul have confirmed.

Thae Yong-ho and his family are under the government’s protection, a South Korean official said.

Mr Thae was the ambassador’s deputy and is thought to be the highest-ranking North Korean official ever to defect.

His main mission in London had been to spread positive perceptions of the North Korean leadership.

In one speech, Mr Thae argued that the British had been brainwashed by their ruling class into believing lies about North Korea under its leader Kim Jong-un.

“If the people in this country, or in America, knew that there is a country in the world where there is a free education, free housing, free medical care, then they’d have second thoughts,” he said.

“That is the reason why the mass media creates all those shocking, terrifying stories about my country.”

Mr Thae had been due to return to Pyongyang with his wife and children.

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