Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
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A close aide to North Korea's National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il has defected to the United States to dodge punishment for a failed drug smuggling attempt, according to a news report Saturday.
Kil Jae-gyong, deputy director at Kim's secretariat, along with two other North Koreans recently sought to defect to the U.S. from a third country, Yonhap News Agency reported, quoting a diplomatic source in Seoul.
The source said Kil was the officer in charge of a drug trafficking attempt which failed last month, and he subsequently decided to defect to avoid punishment by Kim.
Kil, a longtime diplomat who served as deputy foreign minister, would be the highest-ranking official to bolt from the North since Hwang Jang-yop, a Workers' Party former secretary, defected to the South in 1997.
Kil had twice been expelled from the diplomatic arena for engaging in illegitimate activities, once for drug trafficking in Sweden while serving as the North Korean ambassador to Stockholm in 1976, and in 1998 for using counterfeit U.S. notes worth $30,000 in Vladivostok, Russia.
In a separate case, Yom Jin-chol, son of Yom Ki-su, another high-level Workers' Party official, also defected recently while on a business trip to a third country, Yonhap reported.
Australian media last month reported that Kyong Won-ha, a top North Korean nuclear expert, had defected to the west along with some 20 other nuclear scientists and military officers.
North Korea has denied the story of Kil's defection.
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