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N. Korean diplomat in Kuwait defected to S. Korea in 2019: media

A man wearing a face mask sits in front of a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Jan. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

SEOUL (Kyodo) -- A North Korean diplomat defected to South Korea in 2019 while serving as the acting head of the North's embassy in Kuwait, South Korean media reported Monday.

    The Maeil Business Newspaper said Ryu Hyun Woo defected with his wife and children and has explained he decided to do so to provide his children with a better future.

    Yonhap News Agency also reported the defection, citing a source. It said a National Intelligence Agency official declined to comment.

    Ryu was reportedly a counselor at the embassy. He was serving as a charge d'affaires after a North Korean ambassador was expelled from Kuwait following a 2017 U.N. Security Council resolution over North Korea's missile activities, according to the media.

    The report of Ryu's defection follows one of Jo Song Gil, an acting ambassador to Italy who defected to South Korea sometime between 2018 and 2019. Earlier in 2016, Thae Yong Ho, a minister at the North's embassy in London, defected to the South.

    One report said Ryu's father-in-law used to head Office 39 of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, which manages the secret funds of the country's top leaders and is tasked with acquiring hard currency.

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