A North Korean official who is a relative of Kim Jong-nam and had protected him in China is preparing to defect to South Korea with his family. KBS has also discovered that another high-ranking official from the North Korean trade representative in Shenyang has defected recently.
On February 10, three days before Kim Jong-nam's assassination, a man in his 50s surnamed Kim arrived with his wife, son and daughter at Beijing Airport in China. Kim is of the so-called "Baekdu bloodline," which refers to the Kim Il-sung family. Kim is a close relative of Kim Jong-nam and Kim Jong-un. He had been taking care of Kim Jong-nam and his family in China, and freely traveled between North Korea and China. Kim said he decided to defect to South Korea and brought his family from Pyongyang to Beijing after detecting signs of threats against Kim Jong-nam. His anxiety also stemmed from Kim Jong-un's brutal executions of his relatives upon taking power. The North's State Security Department sent five or six agents to accompany Kim on his flight to Beijing, because his trip with his family appeared suspicious.
[Soundbite] (Kim's Assistant(Voice Modified)) : "His entire family has come. People from the State Security Department followed him."
Kim and his family barely managed to escape and hide from the North Korean agents. He is currently preparing to enter South Korea via a third country. Meanwhile, a high-ranking official from the North Korean trade representative in Shenyang, China has also been found to have defected from the North recently. The official was dispatched to Shenyang by the state-funded International Taekwondo Federation, which has had a presence in the Chinese city for several years. North Korea's International Taekwondo Federation earns foreign currency for the Pyongyang regime by dispatching taekwondo teams to overseas destinations including China, and charging over 10,000 U.S. dollars per dispatch. Sources say the official brought with him operational funds amounting 130,000 dollars.
[Soundbite] (North Korean Source(Voice Modified)) : "He is from the taekwondo federation. He is not a consul. He's a trade representative. He ran away with around 100,000 dollars. It has been half a month already."
The North Korean consulate in Shenyang has launched an investigation into its officials stationed in the city.
[Soundbite] (North Korean Source(Voice Modified)) : "When someone from the same organization runs away, all the other members are affected. It's tiresome for those who stay. Numerous people in the trade association suffer."
South Korea's intelligence authorities have been closely monitoring the situation in the North. Although the North Korean regime has stepped up surveillance of its citizens residing overseas since the defection of former diplomat Thae Yong-ho, its diplomatic circles have been rattled by further defections among the North Korean elite in China, where defection is considered to be most difficult.