Two high-ranking officials from the North Korean embassy in Beijing -including a man who had overseen leader Kim Jong-un’s health care – defected with their families last month, a source well-informed on North Korea revealed. “On Sept. 28, a heavyweight representative in North Korea’s mission in Beijing – who came from the Health Ministry – escaped with his wife and daughter,” the source exclusively told the JoongAng Ilbo. “This family made contact with the Japanese Embassy in China to begin the procedure to head to Japan.” The official has relatives in Japan, which was why he chose to defect to Tokyo rather than Seoul. “Around the same time, another senior official at the Beijing mission also defected with his family,” he added. “This official also hoped to head to Japan, and Chinese and Japanese authorities negotiated this.” South Korean authorities are aware of the defections and are working on bringing the defectors to Seoul, the source said. Such officials are not diplomats with the North Korean Embassy in China. They handle trade, economic cooperation and other exchanges in the country they reside in. The two defectors and their families resided in the North Korean Embassy housing. In July, Thae Yong-ho, North Korea’s deputy ambassador in London, defected to South Korea with his family. He was one of the most senior North Koreans to defect. Following Thae’s defection, North Korean leader Kim issued orders to tighten the watch over the regime’s envoys oversees.
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