ROME — North Korea’s top diplomat in Italy has gone into hiding along with his wife, according to a South Korean lawmaker, raising the possibility of a defection of a senior North Korean official.
The news came from South Korea’s spy agency, which briefed lawmakers in Seoul on Thursday on the status of North Korea’s acting ambassador to Italy, Jo Song Gil. It said he went into hiding with his wife in November before his posting to Italy ended late that month.
A high-profile defection by one of North Korea’s elite would be a huge embarrassment for leader Kim Jong Un as he pursues diplomacy with Seoul and Washington and seeks to portray himself as a geopolitical player.
South Korean lawmaker Kim Min-ki said an official from Seoul’s National Intelligence Service shared the information during a closed-door briefing. Kim did not say whether the spy agency revealed anything about Jo’s current whereabouts or whether he had plans to defect to South Korea.
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