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Interpreters for N. Korea’s defection prevention team flee

Interpreters for N. Korea’s defection prevention team flee

Posted October. 13, 2016 07:30,   

Updated October. 13, 2016 07:47


An interpreter of an inspection team from North Korea’s State Security Department sent to China to prevent North Korean elite’s defection has defected to South Korea. An informed source on North Korea said Wednesday that the inspection team was sent to China to monitor North Korean workers in China and prevent their defection after 13 employees at a North Korean restaurant in China defected to South Korea earlier this year. An interpreter of the team disappeared in Shenyang, Liaoning Province in June, the source said.

The interpreter is known to be a 27-year-old woman who was a staff member of the North Korean embassy in Beijing. It was very unusual for a North Korean embassy’s employee to flee. Even more unusual is the fact that she fled after working for the State Security Department’s inspection team. According to the source, the interpreter was born in Hwanghae Province and graduated from the North’s prestigious Kim Il Sung University as a Chinese language major. Although she was not a high ranking official, she had a great deal of knowledge in high-level communication between the North and China due to the nature of her job, the source said.

“When North Korea sends a delegation to a foreign country, the North Korean embassy in the country provides interpreter support. It was an inspection team from the State Security Department that she helped,” the source said. The inspectors said to have been dispatched to China to examine the current state of North Korean laborers working at North Korean restaurants or plants located in Dandong, Changchun and Shenyang, China to prevent additional defection. After the interpreter disappeared, the inspection team hurried back to the North, the source said. The South Korean intelligence authorities refused to confirm‎ its knowledge about her whereabouts.

In addition, another interpreter at a North Korean customs office in Hyesan, Ryanggang Province fled around Aug. 20. The source said that the interpreter, a man in his late 20s and a graduate from Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies as a Chinse language major, is now in South Korea. Presumably, the August 17 defection to South Korea by Thae Yong-ho, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom, prompted the interpreter to follow suit.

주성하기자 zsh75@donga.com