Senior North Korean Officials Defect from Key Overseas Positions

Michael Song, Oct. 23, 2015, 9:20 a.m.


Among dozens of North Korean officials who have defected from overseas to South Korea are senior staff of the Workers Party's notorious Room 39, which handles leader Kim Jong-un's slush funds, and the General Bureau of Reconnaissance in charge of operations against South Korea, a source said Thursday. 



Some reportedly dealt a blow to the valuta-strapped regime by taking millions of U.S. dollars with them. A source in Beijing said one official with Room 39 who defected from Africa, where he had supervised North Korean workers building monumental statuary, fled with part of the payment. 

North Korean craftsmen are famous or notorious for building monumental bronze statuary for dubious regimes in Senegal, Angola and Zimbabwe in the heroic socialist style that is mostly out of fashion elsewhere.

Another official also under Room 39 defected from a Chinese-speaking country with millions of dollars from North Korean coffers. That official seized the opportunity of a child's holiday to defect since the North often holds diplomats' families hostage in Pyongyang to prevent them from running away.

Another diplomat who defected from the Caribbean last year at one stage worked for the party's Room 35, which carries out even more dubious activities abroad and has been blamed for blowing up a Korean Air passenger plane in the 1980s.

It was later became the General Bureau of Reconnaissance and supervised the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan in 2010. The official reported valuable intelligence to South Korean authorities including signs that the regime is starting to crumble.

Meanwhile, a senior official of the North's Korea Taesong Bank absconded in Russia last year taking some of the bank’s assets with him. The source said such defections are a heavy blow for the regime since these officials not only take inside information with them but badly-needed valuta as well. Some of them have reportedly defected to third countries. The National Intelligence Service says defections of disaffected senior officials are on the rise, from eight in 2013 to 18 in 2014 to 20 already this year

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